Bill gives tax credits for private school tuition

JUNEAU — Alaskans who send their kids to private school might be in line for a tax break if a new bill becomes law.

SB92 grants municipalities the authority to grant their taxpayers a credit for private school tuition paid during the same tax year. The credit would offset one’s property taxes and the bill’s sponsor, Sen. John Coghill, thinks that savings could encourage people to establish education scholarships.

“It’s really a way of saying, if you will pool private money for education purposes, then maybe there’s some good tax relief coming there,” the Senate majority leader said. Coghill, R-North Pole, called the measure part of a “larger discussion on school choice.”

The bill, which was proposed Friday, was referred to the Senate Education and Finance Committees.

Sen. Berta Gardner, an Anchorage Democrat, said she would vote against the measure because she believes tax breaks for private school tuition deprive the community of money used to maintain a public education system and other services.

“There’s no end to it, you know. If you want to send your child to a private school, that’s fine,” Gardner said. “I don’t think it should be tax deductible from property taxes. You know, your property taxes serve a function of your contribution to the services that a community provides.”

There hasn’t been much talk about the bill yet but Gardner said she’s heard people in the Capitol call it a voucher bill, which the bill sponsor said was not his intent.

“I don’t know if it is or not,” Gardner said. “If it translates, it is a way of putting public funds with some benefit to private schools. It’s a very small way of doing it, but the principle of it is what I care about.”

Another Senate Republican has proposed a measure that he believes is an “appropriate vehicle” for vouchers. Sen. Mike Dunleavy’s SB89, proposed Thursday, gives Alaskan taxpayers a credit if they donate money for “educational support purposes” at public, private nonprofit and religious elementary and secondary schools.

“Public-private partnerships are part of the fabric of this country and this state, and they should be — in my opinion — they should be supported,” Dunleavy, R-Wasilla, said.

He called his bill an appropriate vehicle for any school voucher system in Alaska because it doesn’t allocate public funds to private schools. Under the bill, individuals would decide where their tax-deductible donation goes.





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