From the press release:
“This bill is about helping all students – and all taxpayers,” Sen. [David] Thomas said. “It’s also about giving public schools more resources per child. As a longtime, passionate supporter of public education in South Carolina, I believe that we have an obligation to do both.”
Senator Kevin Bryant also noted:
“We have to try something new, and the good news is that we can do that in such a way that saves the state money and lets our public schools have smaller class sizes and better student-to-teacher ratios. When you put the goal of the individual child – not the individual bureaucracy – first, this proposal is a no-brainer. It’s only when your concern is more for the administrative functions that you start to see opposition.”
Last year public schools began the year with over $11,480 in combined per student appropriations. The state share of that money averaged $4,800 for each of the nearly 700,000 public school students. Even after the mid-year budget cuts, the state will still spend over $4,300 per student this year.
Of the state spending, half of that money is truly “student-based” and directly follows the individual child within the public school system. That’s primarily the money coming from the Education Accountability Act (EAA). The other half of the money is non-EAA General Fund spending and non-general fund state appropriations. That money goes to grants, programs and categories, which are not tied to the exact number of children in a given school or district.
In other words, when engaged parents make the choice to home-school their child or send them to a parochial or private school, the state saves $2,400 in student specific money while giving local districts $2,400 more for a child they do not have to educate. That means more money per-child. Those figures are dramatically higher if the child is zoned to attend a failing school or challenged with special needs.
The Education Opportunity Act offers a modest state income tax credit to parents who choose to home-school or enroll their child in independent schools.
In offering this credit, the state is simply helping to offset a fraction of the out-of-pocket expenses borne by engaged parents who are making a choice that saves taxpayers thousands of dollars. This is no different from tax credits we already provide to small business that create local jobs, individuals who make donations to community development organizations or homeowners that improve their property with sprinklers or hurricane resistant materials. Children of parent’s whose family income is too low to benefit from such a credit will be eligible to receive support from nonprofit Student Scholarship Organizations. The family and corporate donors to these groups will also enjoy tax credits as an incentive for their philanthropy.
Senator Bryant explained:
Let me be perfectly clear: expanded parental choice – real parental choice – will be a cash windfall for each and every public school district in the State of South Carolina.
This school year, the average public school district in South Carolina received $5,516 per student from local government. That’s half of the total public school spending and this money will remain totally untouched by the tax credits offered to parents and business at the state level.
In fact, for each child that transfers out of the public school, there will be a further $5,516 dollars to be divided among the remaining students. Not only will classrooms be smaller, they will have more resources.
UPDATE: more details and commentary can be found at FITS News.