California Considers Scholarship Program

Published September 1, 2009

A new bill awaiting a second hearing in the California State Assembly could help students and families by providing tax credits to groups and individuals donating money to private school scholarship programs.

Under Assembly Bill 279—the Great Schools Tax-Credit Scholarship Program, proposed by state Assemblyman Mike Duvall (R-Yorba Linda)—taxpayers could claim tax credits worth up to 50 percent of their state tax liability for donations to nonprofit organizations distributing scholarships to low- and middle-income students and families.

The bill was first heard May 19, and at press time its second hearing has not yet been scheduled, said Shaun Rundle, a representative in Duvall’s district office.

The bill, Rundle said, would go into effect on or after January 2010 if adopted. It would establish an education scholarship, all fees included, for any qualified school of the recipient’s choosing.

Emphasis on Results

Rundle said Duvall, who has been focusing on local school reform, looked into how money given from the state was being used—and found that though schools were indeed getting money, it wasn’t necessarily showing up in the classroom.

“[Duvall] wanted something to change that and give kids the opportunity to go to schools that are being productive,” Rundle said. “He wanted students to have the opportunity best suited for them and to be in a place where they can excel. And [he wants to] give money to the schools that are being the most productive.”

Power to the People

Dan Lips, a senior education policy analyst at The Heritage Foundation in Washington, DC, said tax credit programs that use charitable donations for scholarships, such as the one Duvall is proposing, are popular, effective ways to give children a good education and empower their parents.

“Since California is in such a huge fiscal crisis, this could be a way to do two important things: improve opportunity for students and their families to send children where they choose, and save the state money,” Lips said.

Other states, such as Arizona and Florida, have proven such programs can succeed, Lips noted.

“If this were enacted in California, it would turn power over to families that otherwise might not have it, and give lots of families school choice who might not have it,” Lips said.

Elisha Maldonado ([email protected]) writes from San Jose, California.

For more information …

California Assembly Bill 279: