New National School Choice Federal Tax Credit Legislation Proposed

U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, along with U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz and U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne, unveiled the Education Freedom Scholarships (EFS) legislation that will be introduced into both houses of Congress. The bill proposes a $5 billion yearly investment to expand and improve the education options available to students across the country.

The program will make up to $5 billion yearly available for tax credits for locally controlled scholarship programs that grant scholarships to students to choose the learning environment and style that best meets their unique needs.

EFS will be funded through taxpayers’ voluntary contributions to state‐identified Scholarship Granting Organizations (SGOs). Those taxpayers will then receive a non‐refundable, dollar‐for‐dollar federal tax credit. EFS will not create a new federal education program but will have the states decide whether or not to participate and, if they choose to, how to select eligible students, education providers and allowable education expenses.

Some of the ways states could potentially expand students’ access to educational opportunities include, but are not limited to, scholarships that would fund participation in:

  • Advanced, remedial, and elective courses;
  • Apprenticeships and industry certifications;
  • Concurrent and dual enrollment;
  • Private and home education;
  • Special education services and therapies;
  • Transportation to education providers outside of a family’s zoned school;
  • Tutoring, especially for students in low‐performing schools; and
  • Summer and after-school education programs.

The Cruz bill also includes an additional $5 billion tax credit program to fund scholarships for career and technical education and workforce internships for expanding career training options for students while closing the skills gap for employers.

The scholarships can cover allowable education expenses, such as:

  • Tuition for dual or joint enrollment courses online or in-person at local community colleges or short-term job training programs like a coding boot camp or accelerated training program;
  • Books and fees required by a technical program or community college of choice;
  • Industry-based exams and certification fees necessary for an in-demand occupation;
  • Transportation to an apprenticeship training center or worksite, magnet school, career and technical education academy, or public or private school of a family’s choice; and
  • Tools, supplies, and personal protective equipment required for in-person or online career and technical education programs.

There will be a number of challenges in attempts to gain bipartisan support for the bills in both houses of Congress and get a final bill passed. Coalitions of supporters will need to engage with one another and with parent groups to develop a blueprint for advocacy with their congressional delegates to dispel myths and promote benefits of the program. NCEA will work with others in the private school community to advocate for congressional passage. President Trump will sign it if it reaches his desk. A quick fact sheet is available online.