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Keep That School Choice Train A-Rollin’: Nevada Prepares to Join the Scholarship Tax Credit Club

Man, it’s been an exciting two weeks for school choice. Last month, we celebrated Alabama’s induction into the charter club after it become the 43rd state to pass a charter law. We paused briefly to remember Colorado’s now-dead attempt at an ESA law, then proceeded to revel in the glory of freshly encouraging research on urban charters. I rounded out it all out by providing an update on the nation’s biggest school choice developments.

The fifth item on the list was the passage of Nevada’s scholarship tax credit bill by the state’s lower legislative house. Guess what? That bill has now passed the Nevada State Senate and is heading to Governor Brian Sandoval’s desk for signature. I can say with 99.99 percent certainty that he will sign it forthwith (the .01 percent accounts for the possibility of an alien invasion and/or meteor strike). Why? Well, because he happily stated that he “will sign it when it reaches [his] desk” during Nevada’s 2015 State of the State address.

Once the governor puts ink to paper, Nevada will become the 15th state to adopt a scholarship tax credit program. It will be the 26th state to adopt a private school choice program of any kind.

We’ve talked plenty about scholarship tax credit programs, so I won’t spend any time talking about how they work. I will, however, take a few seconds to highlight some of the final bill’s biggest features, which are outlined nicely by great summary post from the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice:

The Nevada Department of Taxation will administer this tax-credit scholarship program. When a business wishes to make a donation to an eligible scholarship granting organization (SGO), the organization will contact the Department of Taxation for approval to receive the tax credit. The SGO will then accept the donation and provide documentation to the donor to allow for the credit to be received against the Modified Business Tax. The amount of the credit will be 100 percent of the donor’s contribution. The cap on total tax credits will be set at $5 million with a 110 percent escalator for each subsequent year.

The amount of the scholarships students are awarded can be no larger than $7,775, and that number will be indexed to the consumer price index. That means as goods get more expensive, the scholarship amount will rise in response.

Students from families whose household income is at or below 300 percent of the federal poverty level ($72,750 for a family of four) are eligible to receive scholarships from approved SGOs.

The program comes with an automatic escalator clause, a very generous credit value, an even more generous scholarship value tied to inflation increases, and eligibility criteria that scoop up nearly everyone who might need tuition assistance to get their kids into a private school—ideas also recommended for Colorado by my Independence Institute policy friends. Most impressively, it does all this while imposing few restrictions or allowing too much government involvement. Yeah, this one’s a winner.

Lots of folks are celebrating Nevada’s entry into the school choice club, but let’s not forget that this isn’t the end of the story. Nevada still has an ESA bill on the table, and Arkansas, Mississippi, and Tennessee all have brand new choice programs pending. Other states are considering expansions or additions to their current choice programs. Let’s keep the momentum going! And let’s not forget about Colorado, which still needs more school choice!

See you next time!