President for Policy at the Invest in Education
Murphy is the Vice President of the
Invest in Education Foundation and has
held this position since its founding in
2012. Invest in Education Coalition
promotes school choice and improving
K-12 education. Today we'll be
discussing their important campaign to
promote school choice through a National
K-12 Scholarship Tax Credit.
Peter previously served as Policy and
Communications Director at the New York
Charter Schools Association, the
statewide membership organization of
charter schools in New York, which
advocates on behalf of the state’s more
than 200 charter schools in operation or
approved to open. He also wrote for the
Association’s weblog, The Chalkboard and
was a regular guest blogger on the NY Ed
Exutive Director, Thomas Carroll
contends that school choice advocates
should take advantage of Republican
control of the White House and both
houses of Congress to promote an
aggressive school choice agenda in 2018,
including making the National K-12
Scholarship Tax Credit a reality after
already securing a major school choice
victory in the tax reform legislation
that was passed at the end of the year.
#EdTaxCredit50 is an advocacy campaign
for the adoption of a national tax
credit to encourage charitable donations
to non-profit K-12 scholarship funds in
all 50 states.
H.R.5153 — 115th Congress (2017-2018)
“USA Workforce Tax Credit Act”.
Trump’s School Choice Victory Is Just the Beginning
By Thomas W. Carroll
Parents and others will have a new tax-advantaged way
to save money for their children to attend the public, private or
religious school of their choice under the tax reform plan recently
adopted by the U.S. Congress with President Trump’s support.
Under the new law, the popular 529 college savings accounts will be
expanded to allow parents to use these accounts to save tax-free for
K-12 public, private and religious tuition. The measure affects 50
million students across the United States. Senator Ted Cruz
(R-Texas), the idea’s champion, notes that the reform amounts to
“the most significant school choice victory ever adopted.” An
earlier Cruz amendment to the Senate tax plan provided the language
ultimately used in the final bill.
A grassroots coalition of more than 70 organizations across the
nation assembled by the #EdTaxCredit50 Coalition supported this
529 reform will be able to expand quickly because there already are
13 million 529 college accounts today, with about $300 billion in
total savings. More than 75 percent of these savings are held by
families with $150,000 or less in income. As of January 1st,
withdrawals from these accounts and any new 529 accounts may be used
to pay K-12 tuition.
While the 529 expansion is a great outcome in and of itself, it also
helps lay the foundation for broader school choice victories in
2018. The 529 reform has several important features that can serve
as a precedent for future action:
to parents and students in all 50 states;
require any further state approvals or “opt in”;
working-class and middle-class families, not solely the economically
disadvantaged (in fact, no income threshold is applied at all,
making it akin to economist Milton Friedman’s vision of universal
parental choice); and
no new regulations on private schools or any infringements on
of these is a significant feature that naysayers—including many in
the school choice movement—claimed could not be attained in the
current political environment.
Unfortunately, not a single Democrat voted for the tax bill in
either house, no Democratic Senator voted for the Cruz Amendment,
and no Democrat voted to confirm Betsy DeVos as U.S. Secretary of
Education. This isn’t a partisan observation, just a statement of
This partisan reality suggests that school choice advocates should
take advantage of Republican control of the White House and both
houses of Congress while it lasts.
should still be done?
the top of the list is a national tax credit to encourage charitable
donations to nonprofit K-12 scholarship funds. For every dollar
donated to a nonprofit scholarship fund, a taxpayer would reduce his
tax burden by a dollar. The plan would inject charitable dollars
into the hands of parents to make school choice and attaining a
quality education a reality for millions of American children. This
idea has the broadest grassroots support of any school choice idea.
Presently, more than 240 organizations, including more than 40 labor
unions, support a K-12 scholarship tax credit.
This idea could be improved by also encouraging charitable donations
to apprenticeship and workforce preparation programs. This
additional change would help close the “skills gap” that leaves
millions unemployed at the same time that millions of jobs go
Second, there is broad support for ensuring that the families of
members of the U.S. military are afforded the broadest choice of
public, private and religious schools for their children. Many
military families are forced to send their children to inferior
district schools near military bases without being given additional
options. This simply is not acceptable given the sacrifices made by
men and women in uniform and their families.
Third, the recently adopted expansion of 529 savings accounts to
include K-12 tuition should be expanded to encompass homeschooling
expenses. Homeschooling was included in the original Cruz
Amendment, but was deleted as a result of a last-minute procedural
maneuver by Senate Democrats, led by Senators Ron Wyden (D-Oregon)
and Bernie Sanders (D-Vermont). This partisan ploy rubbed a lot of
Republican Members of Congress the wrong way and there is renewed
interest in both chambers to allow homeschooling families to save
their own money in a tax-advantaged way, especially since these
families pay taxes for schools they do not use.
President Trump and the U.S. Congress can be proud of the recent
school choice victory, but no time should be wasted building on this
victory in 2018.
W. Carroll is Executive Director of the #EdTaxCredit50 Coalition