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Plan would help with private, home school costs
By J. Andrew Curliss
Posted: Sunday, Feb. 06, 2011
RALEIGH Legislators are beginning a push for a law that would help pay for some N.C. students to attend private or home schools in kindergarten through the 12th grade, an idea that is generating fierce debate about school choice and funding and could lead to a veto from Gov. Bev Perdue.
The GOP leader in the state House, Paul Stam of Apex, is behind the proposal, which would allow parents to receive a refundable tax credit of up to $2,500 and an additional $1,000 from their county to offset private school costs. Commissioners in each county would have to approve their county's participation, and Stam said fast-growing areas, especially around Charlotte and in Raleigh, would be likely to join.
Stam has filed the bill, HB 41, outlining the idea, which makes the credit available only to children who first attend public schools. He plans to introduce it Monday.
The proposed legislation comes as Republican lawmakers are moving to allow more charter schools and to make them eligible for construction money from the state lottery while overhauling their supervision. Stam said his tax-credit idea would cover two broad areas: saving money and providing more choices. Legislative staff research says the overall savings to the state and counties combined could top $50 million per year by shifting some students out of public schools.
Opponents say that the bill strikes at the heart of public education, that most fixed costs won't be helped by lower school populations, and that the amount proposed would chiefly help parents who can already afford private education.
"It helps parents with their taxes, saves the government lots of money, and provides more choices for the education of children," he said. "The impetus is the final one: to let children have different options, of course chosen by their parents, because one size does not fit all. But I'm realistic enough to realize that the only way I get this passed is if it saves the government money."
One wrinkle: The only students eligible under Stam's bill would be ones who leave a public school system. In the program's first five years, a student could qualify for the private school aid only after spending at least a year in a public school system. After that, eligibility would be for students who spend at least one semester in a public school, according to the proposal.
Beyond that, eligibility would extend to any married couple earning no more than $100,000 in taxable income; the threshold for a single filer is $60,000.
Legislative analysts estimate 8,000 to 15,000 students would participate each year. About 160,000 students attendprivate schools in North Carolina.
Stam said he expects lawmakers to pass the bill, especially with Republican backers of the idea now in the majority.
But the real question will be whether it can attract a veto-proof margin - three-fifths of the votes - in both the House and Senate
Read more: http://www.charlotteobserver.com/...h-private-home.html#ixzz1DjpcOpV3