President Trump voiced support during his State of the Union Address earlier this week for the Education Freedom Scholarships and Opportunity Act, which would create a $5 billion annual tax credit for donations to state-based, locally-controlled scholarships. The act aims at giving one million children the opportunity to attend their school of choice.
Under the plan, a taxpayer could receive a tax credit of up to 10 percent of their adjusted gross income, using the money to instead fund their children’s education.
Trump praised the bill after he surprised fourth-grade student Janiyah Davis with an “opportunity scholarship” during his State of the Union address on Tuesday. Davis had previously been on a waitlist with 50,000 other Philadelphia students after Pennsylvania. Gov. Tom Wolf vetoed school choice legislation, Trump said. Both she and her mother were in attendance at the speech.
“Janiyah, I have some good news for you,” Trump said during his address. “Your long wait is over. I can proudly announce tonight that an opportunity scholarship has become available. It is going to you, and you will soon be heading to the school of your choice.”
He then encouraged Congress to pass the Education Freedom Scholarships and Opportunity Act because “no parent should be forced to send their child to a failing government school.”
The scholarship program currently has more than 120 congressional co-sponsors, according to the White House. The act would give existing state scholarships programs a boost, as well as encourage states to pass policies promoting educational freedom.
The scholarships would help families pay for “expenses such as tuition, dual enrollment, out-of-district transportation, tutoring and apprenticeships,” according to a statement from the White House.
Trump’s support was praised by U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy Devos in a statement published after the president’s address.
“This administration wants every American, no matter their age, income, zip code, or stage in life, to have access to K-12 and higher education options that work for them, unlock their individual potential and help them pursue successful careers in our booming economy,” Devos said. “That’s evidenced by the President’s strong commitment to career and technical education and apprenticeship expansion, higher education reform, Second Chance Pell expansion and Education Freedom Scholarships.”
The act is not supported by some, however. The National Coalition for Public Education said that the tax credit undermines public schools and incentivizes voucher programs over “traditional” charities.
“When taxpayers donate to most tax-exempt charities, such as homeless shelters, they receive a federal tax deduction that could be worth between 10 and 40 cents on each dollar donated, depending on the donor’s tax bracket. But this bill prioritizes [scholarship granting organizations] above any other worthwhile charity a taxpayer may support by providing a 100 percent tax credit on each dollar donated,” the NCPE said in a statement. “In effect, this bill provides donors to SGOs with a tax advantage that is two to three times more generous than donating to other charities.”
It also criticized the bill for creating what it calls a “federally funded private school voucher program.”
“The tax credit is a shell game designed to hid that the program is a voucher,” NCPE said.
The Education Freedom Scholarships and Opportunity Act was introduced to the U.S. House of Representatives by Rep. Bradley Byrne (R-AL) in February of 2019.
Jordyn Pair is a reporter with Battleground State News and The Michigan Star. Follow her on Twitter at @JordynPair. Email her at [email protected]