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Democrats kill attempt to provide tax credits for private education

Bill would have provide incentive to withdraw from public schools

DENVER – A backdoor attempt to institute an education voucher-like program in Colorado was struck down Monday by Democrats in the state Legislature.

Senate Bill 35, which would have provided tax credits for children in private or home-based schools instead of public schools, was killed by the House Education Committee on a 7-6 party-line vote.

The bill was pitched as a way for the state to provide opportunities for parents to choose the best educational pathway for their children without having to pay for it twice.

The size of the tax credit would have depended on the amount of time a student spent in a nonpublic school, and whether a parent was claiming the tax credit or a scholarship benefactor.

For students being home schooled, it would have amounted to $1,000 for a full-time student and $500 for half time.

Parents would have been able to claim half the statewide per pupil funding for children in private schools full time, $3,271.10, or a quarter, $1,636.55 for half-time students.

The credits would have been available only to families with children currently in K-12 public schools or too young to be enrolled in kindergarten for the 2016-17 academic year.

It not have affected families already pursuing alternative educational paths, but offered an incentive to withdraw from the public education system to the tune of an estimated 9,678 pupils in 2018 alone.

A question was raised over the constitutionality of the bill, as it would essentially have provided a taxpayer-funded incentive for sending children to religious schools.

Stuart Pack, attorney for the Anti Defamation League, argued that would be a violation of Colorado’s constitution and a breakdown in the separation of church and state.

“The bill forces Coloradans to have their tax dollars pay for a religious indoctrination of students who attend private sectarian institutions,” Pack said.

Jenna Ellis, assistant professor of legal studies at Colorado Christian University, said that was not the case as the funding would not go directly to schools but rather to parents.

lperkins@durangoherald.com



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