The past 30 years have seen a steady expansion in the educational choices available to parents as school choice programs have spread around the country. There are now 16 programs in 11 states (including D.C.) that provide children with publicly funded scholarships to attend the school of their parents’ choice, while another 16 programs in 12 states allow taxpayers to receive a tax credit for donations to private organizations that offer similar scholarships. Both styles of programs bring more schooling options, including private and religious schools, within the financial reach of more families.

Enabling parents to choose schools that fit their children’s unique needs is a win-win-win: Research shows that such school choice policies benefit the children who participate, give traditional public schools incentives to improve and save taxpayer dollars.

Despite this, the wave of school choice-based reform has so far passed Idaho by. Legislation that would have created educational tax credits was considered in 2000, 2001 and 2005, but each time failed to pass. The bills—HB 686, HB 311 and HB 76 respectively—would have provided an income tax credit for any individual or corporation who donated money “directly to the parents or legal guardian … of a child who is being educated at the elementary or secondary level outside the public school system.” In 1998, the legislature also considered a resolution (HCR 39) to direct the legislative council to study scholarship tax credits, but the resolution was never approved.

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