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Home-school, private-school families win tax break

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Home-school, private-school families win tax break

SC House approves private school choice bill

Published: Thursday, March 29, 2012 at 9:00 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, March 29, 2012 at 9:10 a.m.

COLUMBIA — After eight years of fighting, proponents of helping parents send their children to private schools won approval Wednesday in the South Carolina House.

The House voted 65-49 on a measure supporters say represents a home-grown version of a long-divisive issue fueled by out-of-state money.

Rep. Eric Bedingfield, R-Mauldin, said it's about providing parents choices.

"I don't believe education is a one-size-fits-all proposition," he said. He noted students can get lottery-funded scholarships toward tuition at private colleges in the state: "Why shouldn't we give the choices in K-12?"

The bill would allow parents to take a $4,000 tax deduction per child for tuition paid, $2,000 for homeschool expenses and $1,000 per child who attends a public school outside the district where he or she lives. It would allow people to claim tax credits for donating to newly created nonprofits giving scholarships to poor and disabled students.

Budget advisors expect the bill to reduce state revenues by $37 million in 2012-13 — a much smaller price tag from previous versions, due to caps on the total credits claimed by businesses and taxpayers who donate to the scholarships groups.

The projection includes tax deductions for more than 52,600 students in private schools, 10,400 in home schools, and 2,400 for outside school districts. Unlike previous bills, there is no phase-in for students already in private or home schools. All parents could begin claiming the deduction in 2012-13.

"All those families are already paying big bucks," said Rep. James Smith, D-Columbia. He said the tax savings is "just gravy for families who really don't need it."

The measure represents the fifth version of an idea that has died repeatedly since former Gov. Mark Sanford rolled out the first plan in February 2004. Another perfunctory vote in the House would send it to the Senate, where an identical bill has been introduced.

Last year's version died on the House floor by a vote of 61-59, and in the Senate Education Committee 6-10.

Neil Mellen, spokesman for South Carolinians for Responsible Government — a major lobbying group behind the idea — said 24 other states have some form of private school choice. He believes the idea has picked up steam here as lawmakers change their previous view that supporting it means not supporting public education. It's not an either-or proposition, he said.

Opponents argued the win stems from years of browbeating in which Republicans who didn't support the idea were targeted for removal during mudslinging primary races.

Rep. Boyd Brown, D-Winnsboro, said those who voted for it were OK'ing such nasty tactics and saying that's how things can get passed in this state. He said he also opposed it as "incentivizing parents to take their children out of public schools, to fracture our communities more than they're fractured now."

Mellen contends there's another type of pressure from the other side, with teachers being told to vocally oppose it.

The measure would allow tuition scholarships of up to $10,000 for students with disabilities and $5,000 for poor students. They could not exceed 75 percent of the full cost of tuition.

Opponents doubted the measure would truly help poor children escape failing schools, as supporters argue is the bill's purpose. But Mellen said programs in other states show tens of thousands of poor kids there are attending private schools through scholarships awarded.

Republicans killed amendments that would require yearly audits of those scholarship-granting groups, as well as public reporting of the number of scholarships awarded, amounts given, and to which schools.

by on Apr. 2, 2012 at 4:49 AM
Replies (11-15):
by on Apr. 3, 2012 at 5:01 AM

Quoting Bethsunshine:

Personally, I wouldn't want a homeschool tax credit because of all the strings that go along with it. The government is already up in our business more than enough.

So true- I've always said I'd rather they just not take my money in the first place.  

by on Apr. 3, 2012 at 8:43 AM

I think it would be great to have this available, however, I would also be worried that it invites the government into your home and how you choose to educate your kids in your home.  I guess I'm spoiled by homeschooling in Texas where there are literally no requirements other than teaching the basic classes they all need anyway.  We're considered a private school and so the state has no idea our kids even exist.  No testing, record keeping, etc.  So I think I'll keep that instead of tax credit in the long run.  Hope it works out for South Carolina though:)

by on Apr. 3, 2012 at 9:16 PM

 Thank you for sharing. I live in Orangeburg, SC.

typingCome check out my blog at I'd love to have your feedback there.  Also it lets you know more about me and my family. Hope your having a great day.

by on Apr. 21, 2012 at 2:37 PM

Just saw this-I used to homeschool my 8 and 10 y.o. boys and had to stop for various reasons.I am so happy to be able to begin again this fall,although my boys are actually doing quite well in PS.I just feel that they can learn so much more in less time at home-sometimes my 10 y.o. has 3 hours of homework in 4th grade!What do they do all day?Sorry for the rant! Anyway,I am a bit worried about the intrusion of government entities in my homeschooling life..not that I have anything to hide but I prefer as few complications as possible.I get a lot of my curriculum used or free from the internet anyway..It doesn't have to cost a lot if you have the time to search and create your own curriculum.We live in Easley, SC about 20 minutes from downtown Greenville.

by on Apr. 21, 2012 at 7:25 PM

wished texas had this.. we dont have state taxes.. does federal offer anything for homeschoolers?

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