By Ben Velderman
BOISE, Idaho – A bill that would allow thousands of Idaho families to send their children to the private school of their choice passed its first major legislative hurdle on Friday.
By a 12-4 vote, a House committee approved a bill that would give $10 million in tax credits to Idahoans who contribute to organizations that provide private school scholarships to eligible families, reports IdahoReporter.com.
“Donors would receive a dollar-for-dollar credit against their annual state income tax bill,” the IdahoReporter.com notes.
The bill advances to the full House of Representatives for a vote.
State Sen. Bob Nonini, a Republican, is the driving force behind the proposed legislation. Nonini told House lawmakers that some 2,600 students would likely use the program to leave their local public school for a private one.
“This is a huge opportunity for kids,” Nonini said, according to the news site. “I think if this became law, I think you would see a positive response.”
Sixteen other states already have a similar tax scholarship plan in place, according to the lawmaker.
While Idaho’s Constitution prohibits state funds from going to private schools, the state’s attorney general said he would defend the law as constitutional in the many lawsuits that are sure to follow, reports Spokesman.com.
Nonini thinks his proposal is legal, since no state money would go directly to a religious school. Citizens would simply be rewarded for contributing to private school scholarships for students.
Wayne Hoffman, executive director of the Idaho Freedom Foundation, supports the plan.
“This is very simple for us,” Hoffman told the IdahoReporter.com. “This is good public policy, this is good tax policy, this is good education policy. What it does is it opens up the marketplace and allows for people who are not getting the education that they need in the public education system. It allows them to get that opportunity in a private setting.”