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TX Senate Committee Approves Tax Credits

“Senate panel OKs measure to fund tuition at religious and private schools”
by Will Weissert, Associated Press
April 11, 2013

A state Senate committee on Thursday approved a high-profile school voucher plan, sending it to the full chamber for what could be a fierce floor fight.

Senate Bill 23 by state Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston, would offer tax credits to businesses that provide scholarship funding for low-income students who want to transfer from low-performing public schools to private or religious schools.

The bill would allow businesses to write off 100 percent of their state business margins taxes, but it caps the total value of all donations at $100 million.

Patrick, who chairs the Senate Education Committee, says the plan could help as many as 10,000 students transfer.

His committee referred the bill to the Senate, but not before an important modification was approved: To qualify for scholarships, children have to be at risk of dropping out of school and come from low-income families. The measure originally allowed at-risk or low-income students to seek scholarships.

The amendment changing or to and was made by state Sen. Eddie Lucio, D-Brownsville.

“I understand the author’s intent with this bill,” Lucio said. “This could give those students who most need educational choice a voucher.”

Patrick accepted the change, saying his intent was “to help students who are poor and in failing schools.”

Lucio responded, “I am for helping poor kids, including keeping them in our public schools.”

To get scholarships, students must come from households with incomes less than 200 percent of that needed to qualify for the free and reduced-price lunch program. The U.S. Department of Agriculture has guidelines for who qualifies based on family size.

A family of three can qualify to get reduced-price or free lunches at school if their yearly income doesn’t exceed $36,000. Patrick’s proposal would allow families to seek

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Newswire: March 5, 2013

Vol. 15, No. 9

OK PINOCCHIO. Last week, Newswire sparked a mini-debate on what the sequester really means for education. But as CER president Jeanne Allen points out in today’s National Journal, “… that among all of these thousands of entities that spend and receive federal money, no one seems to know or to be even talking about how the almighty federal dollar flows.” The reality that CER continues to point out, is that most of the money has already been collected by states and districts. Thankfully we’re not alone in holding the Administration accountable for irresponsible rhetoric about a frenzy of “pink slips.” In fact, the US Department of Education has yet to produce any district-level evidence of lay-offs, according to the Wall Street Journal.

COVER UP. The Worcester County Teachers Association in Maryland has been making headlines as news broke of their botched attempt to cover-up the fact that Denise Inez Owens, the union’s former treasurer embezzled over $430,000 of teacher dues to fund her gambling addiction. In 2009 when the MSEA (state affiliate of the NEA) learned of the crime, they merely forced Owens to resign. We know these union contracts are ironclad, but come on, they sent a known-criminal back to teaching in a middle school classroom! Finally justice has been served, but where’s the accountability and “common good” that the union leadership supposedly values?

EXPANDING CHOICE. In a press conference last week Alabama Governor Robert Bentley applauded the legislature for sending an individual and corporate tax credit bill to his desk, “I truly believe this is historic education reform and it will benefit students and families across Alabama regardless of their income and regardless of where they live. I’m so proud we have done this

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