It doesn't look like tax credits for special-needs students will get state legislative approval this year.
As noted in today's article, legislation that would allow parents of special-needs students to get a $6,000 a year tax credit for tuition at private schools is locked in committee. Both supporters and opponents concede it's unlikely the legislation will be voted on before the General Assembly recesses this month.
Legislators seem to be heeding the state's education lobby, which uniformly has opposed the bill as being a backdoor attempt toward vouchers for all families.
Aside from concerns about the precedent that would be set, education groups have specific problems with the legislation itself.
Leanne Winner, lobbyist for the N.C. School Boards Association, said the wording is so vague that a special-needs student who has a daily 25-minute study skills class could be eligible for the tax credit.
Winner said the legislation would only benefit parents who could already afford to send their children to private schools.
Cecil Banks, chief lobbyist for the N.C. Association of Educators, pointed out that parents can work with school districts to get their special-needs children sent to a private school. (Of course, that's something that public schools fight to avoid since it can be expensive.)
Banks said the vast majority of special-needs students are going to be in the public schools so the focus should be on improving funding there and not encouraging parents to leave.
But state Rep. Paul Stam, the House minority leader, said the state saves money whenever special-needs students leave the public schools. He said the state could have a net savings of $7 million a year if the tax credit bill passes.
To try to ease the concerns, Stam said the $7 million in savings could be put back into special-needs programs.
Stam, an Apex Republican, said he's heard from a number of Apex and Cary parents who'd leave the Wake school system to take advantage of the tax credit.