Thursday, February 12, 2009

House Education Committee Kills Bill Creating Tax Deduction for Private School Tuition

A proposal to allow parents of private school students to take an annual state income tax deduction for up to about $1,250 of the tuition they pay was killed in a House committee Thursday.

HB 1195 died after legislative staff projected it could cost the state as much as $108 million in fiscal year 2009 and as much as about $163 million in fiscal year 2010.

Democratic members of the House Education Committee told the bill's sponsor, Rep. Kent Lambert, R-Colorado Springs, that his measure would effectively funnel public money to private schools and undermine rural school districts' financial stability by increasing the incentives for parents to pull" their kids out of local public schools.

But Lambert said preliminary research on his proposal shows that his bill would save money as an increasing number of parents choose private schools over public schools.

"If you have fewer students in the public schools, you also have less back fill from the state," Lambert said. "Whatever we raise in taxes could then be used for something else."

Lambert also said he thinks the existing system under which parents of private school students pay taxes to support public schools is unfair.

"The thing is, people who do not take advantage of the public schools, they still have the same tax liability," Lambert said. "They are being taxed whether or not they decide to participate. The question is whether that's fair."

The vote against the measure was 9-4.

Republican Tom Massey of Poncha Springs joined the committee's majority Democrats in opposition to Lambert's proposal, which was co-sponsored by Sen. Greg Brophy, R-Wray.