05/2004 Friedman Report State Roundup

Published May 1, 2004

Arizona * California * Florida * Kansas * Louisiana
New Hampshire * Pennsylvania * South Carolina * Utah * Wisconsin


Tax Credits Benefit Public Schools, Too

Many Arizona public schools are experiencing a significant increase in donations for extracurricular activities as a result of the Arizona Scholarship Tax Credit. A provision of the 1997 law allows taxpayers to receive a tax credit for contributions they make to public schools as well as to charitable organizations that provide tuition scholarships to students attending private schools.

The program allows married couples filing jointly to receive a tax credit of up to $625 for donations to private school scholarship organizations. In addition, they can receive a credit of up to $250 for donations to public schools. For single filers, the credit limits are $500 and $200 respectively.

The donations can add up to significant sums of money. For example, Education Week reports the 27,000-student Chandler Unified district received $862,244 in 2003, up 22 percent from the previous year. The Deer Valley Unified system received $809,047 last year, up 15 percent from 2002.
Education Week
March 10, 2004


13-year-old Boy Could Lay Groundwork for Vouchers

A mother who is paying $9,000 a year in tuition for her 13-year-old son to attend the University of California at Los Angeles is suing California for failing to provide him with a free education.

Levi Clancy began reading high school books at age 5, enrolled in the Santa Monica Community College at age 7, and began attending classes at UCLA in February. Clancy passed the California High School Proficiency exam when he was 9 but California law mandates he must attend school until age 16.

His mother, Leila Levi, a single parent, says she cannot afford the tuition at UCLA. Her lawsuit argues her son should be provided with a free college education since the state has a compulsory attendance law and the state constitution requires he be provided a free education.

“You can’t send him back to public school, because they don’t have the means to educate a kid this gifted,” Leila Levi’s attorney, Richard Ackerman, told WorldNetDaily. “The only way his intellectual needs can be met is if he goes to a high-level, four-year college.”

California school districts receive a minimum of $7,200 per student from the state. Ackerman believes providing the family with a voucher would allow Clancy to continue attending the college classes.
February 20, 2004


School Choice Supporters Rally at State Capitol

Florida Governor Jeb Bush joined several thousand children, parents, and teachers who rallied at the state capitol in Tallahassee on March 9 to demonstrate their support for the state’s voucher programs.

“As long as I’m governor, we will have school choice in this state,” Bush told the rally, saying he was “very proud” that Florida has the largest school choice program in the country.

“To me it’s as American as apple pie that parents be given a wide array of choices for their children,” he continued. “More choices creates more opportunities. It makes all schools better.”

While parents touted what the school choice programs had done for their children, most legislators glossed over proposals that are in the works to add more “accountability” through student testing and additional oversight of choice school finances.

Carmen Rivero, whose two sons use tax credit scholarships to attend Kissimmee’s Heartland Christian Academy, said her fifth-grader Henry was bullied in his former public school and “invented being sick” to avoid going to school. Now, she told the Tallahassee Democrat, his grades have improved and he “loves to go to school.”

A Wall Street Journal editorial noted that in the past five years, “Florida has delivered real school choice to more American school children than anywhere else in the country.” The editors viewed the push to bring “accountability” to the state’s voucher programs as “really aimed at regulating them to death.”

While it was embarrassing to have a scholarship operator under criminal investigation for looting $268,000 from one of the state’s school choice programs, “[I]t is small beer compared to the glaring scandal of a public school system in which more than half of the state’s African-American and Latino teens will never see a high school diploma,” the editors noted.
Tallahassee Democrat
March 10, 2004
Wall Street Journal
March 25, 2004


Voucher Bill Introduced in House

On February 23, House Bill 2906, “The Opportunity Scholarship Program for At-Risk Students,” was introduced in the Kansas legislature, with hearings scheduled for March 16. The bill is patterned after the voucher bill approved last year in Colorado.

At the same time, the Flint Hills Center for Public Policy released a study by education analyst Dan Lips that outlines the reasons why Kansas should implement a voucher program. The study is titled “An Opportunity Scholarship Proposal for Kansas: Providing Families a Choice and Taxpayers a Break.”

HB 2906 would create a voucher program for at-risk students in elementary and secondary public schools so they could attend participating nonpublic schools. Some 130,200 at-risk children would be eligible to participate in the program. Nonpublic schools participating in the program would need to meet the standards specified in the bill regarding nondiscrimination, and would be required to administer statewide assessments to the children in the program. The value of the scholarship would be half of the statewide average state aid per pupil for the preceding year.

“There’s some things built in so that the public schools … will not suffer from losing those monies and yet still allow the families to choose to move to someplace that might work better for their own child,” said Cindy Duckett, director of Children First: CEO Kansas.
Kansas State Legislature
Flint Hills Center for Public Policy


Archdiocese Again Pushing for School Vouchers

In the upcoming legislative session, the Archdiocese of New Orleans will again work for passage of voucher programs designed to benefit children in failing public schools in New Orleans. Although Louisiana lawmakers defeated similar bills introduced last year by then-Governor Mike Foster, at least three voucher bills are expected to be introduced in the 2004 session.

The least controversial bill, Senate Bill 220, would simply bring the state’s existing preschool voucher program under state law. The program, which pays for 1,500 four-year-olds to attend private preschool facilities, is supported with $8.5 million in this year’s proposed budget and sponsored by Sen. Jay Dardenne (R-Baton Rouge).

The second bill, SB 50, sponsored by Sen. John Hainkel (R-New Orleans), would allow the preschoolers who receive vouchers under SB 220 to continue in the same school until third grade. Senate Education Committee member Paulette Irons (D-New Orleans) said she is considering supporting the proposal because she did not want to force the voucher students into low-performing public schools.

“I’m giving it serious consideration only because the school system is in such disarray,” she told The Times-Picayune.

The third bill, House Bill 366, sponsored by Rep. Steve Scalise (R-Jefferson), would establish a four-year pilot program to allow students in the 14 failing public schools in Orleans Parish to use state funds to attend a private school.
The Times Picayune
March 19, 2004


Despite One-Vote Loss, Voucher Advocates Press on

Although the New Hampshire House rejected a voucher bill in early January, the House Education Committee voted on January 15 to recommend a similar bill, House Bill 1353, to the state House when it met on February 5. When this bill missed passage by a single vote, 172-171, voucher advocates said they would continue educating the public on the benefits of school choice.

“Until New Hampshire makes positive steps towards a parental choice program we will be trapped in a funding mechanism doomed to be cost-prohibitive,” Rep. Packy Campbell (R-Farmington) told Foster’s Sunday Citizen. “Legislators didn’t know enough about the program [in February]. This legislation is coming back.”

The Josiah Bartlett Center for Public Policy, in partnership with the Milton and Rose D. Friedman Foundation, released a study earlier this year showing a similar voucher program would save money for New Hampshire communities. The Bartlett Center plans to hold public forums on school vouchers this summer.

“Our education funding system at the state level is a mess but a voucher bill could target assistance,” Bartlett Center President Charlie Arlinghaus told Foster’s.
Foster’s Sunday Citizen
February 22, 2004


Lawmakers Consider Special-Ed Vouchers

Legislation to implement a voucher program for special-needs and gifted students was introduced in the Pennsylvania House on March 16.

Sponsored by Rep. Daryl Metcalfe (R-Butler), the bill would create a voucher whose value would be equal to the school district’s cost to send a special-education student to a charter school. In explaining his proposal at a news conference, Metcalfe noted the success of a similar program in Florida.

“This is a new movement … targeting a certain population of students who really need to have this help,” said Metcalfe.

Dennis Giorno, executive director of the REACH Alliance, hailed the bill, telling The Patriot News, “This bill goes a long way to putting parents back in charge of their child’s education.”

Commonwealth Foundation President and CEO Matt Brouillette said the proposed bill would not require private schools to meet the same accountability provisions for special education students outlined in the No Child Left Behind Act.

“Parent choice is a much, much higher level of accountability than No Child Left Behind will ever be or ever hope to be,” Brouillette told The Patriot News.
The Patriot News (Harrisburg)
March 17, 2004


Governor’s Tax Credit Plan Involves Income and Property Taxes

On February 26, South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford announced details of his “Put Parents in Charge Act,” an education plan that would provide tax credits of up to $4,600 to offset private school tuition for families making less than $75,000 a year. The status quo is not working, he said.

“This bill creates a marketplace influence within education that will then produce the kind of innovation that is so vital to the success of South Carolina in the twenty-first century,” said Sanford, noting his proposal would save the state money because the cost of the credits would be less than the cost of educating a student in the public schools.

The maximum $4,600 tax credit would be available for high school students, with a reduced maximum credit of $4,000 for students in grades 1-8, and a maximum credit of $3,200 for kindergartners. Homeschoolers could claim the credit, too. The bill also provides dollar-for-dollar tax credits for residents and businesses who donate to scholarship organizations. If the parents’ income is greater than $75,000, another direct relative, such as a grandparent, could claim the credit.

The bill will be introduced by House Speaker Pro Tem Doug Smith (R-Spartanburg), who told The Charleston Post and Courier it would help families earning low and moderate incomes. That was immediately disputed by critics, who said the average income tax bill in South Carolina was just $1,667.

However, Smith pointed out the credit could be applied to a family’s property tax liability as well as its income tax liability.
The Post and Courier (Charleston)
February 27, 2004


Governor Vetoes Scholarships for Disabled Children

On March 23, Utah Governor Olene Walker vetoed a measure that would have allowed 56,000 disabled children to receive a scholarship to cover tuition at any Utah private school of their choice. In response to the veto, seven of Walker’s primary opponents held a press conference to call on legislators to override her decision.

The “Carson Smith Special Needs Scholarships” program, embodied in HB 115, would have provided parents with a voucher worth up to $5,400 to use for tuition at a private school. To qualify, disabled children would have to be enrolled in a Utah public school in the prior year and have an Individual Education Plan.

A week after the veto, parents of children with autism and several of Walker’s primary opponents–including Sen. Parley Hellewell and Fred Lampropulos–participated in a press conference at the Matheson Courthouse. There they voiced support for parents being given the choice to make the education decisions for their child.

“Financially, it would really help a lot of families and mine included,” Brenda Hanchett-Roach, a parent of an autistic child, told KSL-TV. “My husband works two jobs and we just have done a lot of things, have made some sacrifices.”

In a statement read at the news conference, primary candidate Jon Huntsman, Jr. said Walker was wrong to veto the bill and urged the Utah legislature to overturn the veto. A veto override would require a positive vote from two-thirds of the entire state legislature.

“We should be providing relief for those with the greatest of needs,” said Huntsman.
Deseret Morning News
March 24, 2004
Salt Lake City KSL-TV
March 30, 2004


Increased Oversight of Voucher Schools

On March 16, Wisconsin Governor Jim Doyle signed legislation that gives state education officials greater oversight authority for voucher school finances.

The bill requires voucher schools annually to provide evidence they are exercising sound fiscal policies, while also requiring schools that want to join the program to first prove they are financially viable. Schools that fail to meet the new standards can be kicked out of the program or have voucher payments to them withheld by the Department of Public Instruction.

“It comes none too soon as news reports on voucher schools … tell of overdue rent, unpaid teachers, idle students, and possible criminal activity,” Doyle said at the bill-signing ceremony in Milwaukee.

Some questioned the state’s apparent double standard with regard to its response to wrongdoing at public versus private schools.

“When things happen with us [voucher schools], the whole program is thrown into question,” school choice advocate Howard Fuller told CBS 5 News. “When there’s a problem in a public school that doesn’t happen.”
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
March 17, 2004
Green Bay CBS 5 News
March 23, 2004