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House Rev&Tax backs private-school scholarship tax credits bill on 12-4 vote

The House Revenue & Taxation Committee has voted 12-4 in favor of HB 286, Sen. Bob Nonini’s bill to give up to $10 million a year in tax credits for scholarships for students to attend private schools. Among those testifying in favor of the bill this morning was Chris Finch, principal of Genesis Prep Christian Academy in Post Falls. “Many, many families, month after month, week after week, come to our schools,” and would like to enroll their students, he said, “but are not able to afford the tuition. … 52 percent of students receive some sort of discount, some sort of tuition assistance. … But we can’t do it all. We have to subsidize those costs by paying our teachers less.” He said, “This legislation would provide a tremendous opportunity for students in my community that we could effect change in their lives.”

Alex Knoll, an 8-year-old student at LAM Christian Academy in Coeur d’Alene, dressed in a neat dark-blue suit, told committee, “I am blessed to go to a school that allows me to learn and experience things that I might not be able to experience in other schools. My classmates and I are way ahead of most other kids in our area.”

Speaking against the bill were representatives of the Idaho Association of School Administrators, the Idaho School Boards Association and the Idaho Education Association, all of whom said the bill would take state money away from the state’s already cash-strapped public schools. Paul Stark, general counsel for the IEA, also raised questions about whether the bill would violate the Idaho Constitution’s prohibition on any public funding to sectarian or religious schools.

Those voting against the bill were Reps. Neil Anderson, R-Blackfoot; Grant Burgoyne, D-Boise; Lauren McLean, substituting for Rep. Mat Erpelding, D-Boise, and Caroline Meline, D-Pocatello.

Those voting in favor were Reps. Collins, Wood(35), Barrett, Moyle, Raybould, Denney, Anderst, Dayley, Hartgen, Kauffman, Patterson and Trujillo. The bill now moves to the full House.

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Betsy Z. Russell
Betsy Z. Russell joined The Spokesman-Review in 1991. She currently is a reporter in the Boise Bureau covering Idaho state government and politics, and other news from Idaho's state capital.

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