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CER Completes Trifecta of Helpful Scholarship Tax Credit Studies

For those wild and crazy policy wonks out there, it’s been quite a past few weeks for reports that speak directly to the adoption of school choice through K-12 scholarship tax credits. And since I’m all pumped up these days trying to help more Colorado Kids Win, that’s about as fun as summer can be. (Well, outside of trips to the beach or Coors Field, or playing soldiers in the backyard with some of my friends.)

First, it was the Friedman’s analysis of regulation in private school choice programs that has me seeing more and more the advantages of the tax credit approach. Then there’s the local ACE Scholarships study that opens doors to better comparisons of public and private school performance.

Now today, the Washington, D.C.-based Center for Education Reform (CER) caps off the trifecta with the totally brand-new Education Tax Credit Scholarships Ranking & Scorecard 2014. They analyze and give out a grade to each of the 14 states with this kind of program, based on important chosen criteria:

  1. Can both individuals and business can claim tax credits for donations?
  2. How much tax credit value do donors get for supporting K-12 scholarship organizations?
  3. How many students are eligible to receive tax credit scholarships?
  4. How big can the scholarships be?
  5. How little does the state regulate participating private schools?
  6. What amount of tax credits does the state allow each year?

If you look at the 14 scholarship tax credit states as students in a small class and CER as the teacher, you would see every possible grade given out. At the head of the class are Arizona and Florida, while poor Alabama gets the only failing grade.

But Alabama’s program hasn’t had a chance to get off the ground. The 2013 program was struck down in court but at least temporarily allowed to continue. Of the programs in operation, the most struggling state is Louisiana — with only 15 students currently participating! I bet that’s largely because more kids are in that state’s less restrictive voucher/scholarship program.

In between, the report’s authors identify states that are doing pretty well (like Georgia and Pennsylvania) and those that need to try harder (like New Hampshire and Oklahoma). At the same time, there is merit in noting that 36 states don’t even have any sort of scholarship tax credit program, which means they have A LOT of work still to do.

But CER sure has provided a valuable service in noting better examples to follow. As Colorado moves ahead with considering its own version of scholarship tax credits, here’s hoping for the most robust, effective, and inclusive program possible. And if somebody wants to put out a fourth relevant and helpful study on this topic in the days and weeks ahead, I’ll take a look at that, too!