Legislation to divert more than $70 million in public money to private and religious schools was heard in the Education Policy Committee on January 24. The bill was referred to the Education Finance Committee on a 5-4 vote, with all DFL senators voting against.
The bill will expand the current Minnesota education tax credit, which passed in 1997, to include private school tuition. It also sets up an “Equity and Opportunity in Education Tax Credit” to organizations and individuals that donate to non-profit groups who provide private school scholarships. The bill would allowing individuals and companies/corporations to make donations to non-profit organizations who would then provide the funds to help families cover private school tuition. The bill also contains an “inflation factor” which would allow the amount of the credits to increase over time without legislative approval. The GOP in the past has strongly opposed putting programs on “automatic pilot”.
The bill mimics legislation written by the conservative American Legislative Exchange Council, and is narrowly crafted to withstand a court challenge. At the hearing on Tuesday, nine people, including teachers and parents, voiced opposition to the bill, citing lack of funding for Minnesota schools and increasing special education costs. A testifier from the Minnesota Rural Education Association begged legislators to not siphon public dollars away from public schools, saying that local schools are the center of many rural communities.
No hearing has been set for the bill in Education Finance Committee. S.F.256