New Help for the Tuition Crisis? // A proposed bill may help get more money to yeshivah parents

Imagine if your child was eligible for a scholarship to attend yeshivah. What kind of change would that make in your life?

That prospect may become a reality if a newly proposed piece of legislation manages to make its way through Congress. Introduced publicly last week by Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos and Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, the legislation is being referred to by the Department of Education in shorthand as Education Freedom Scholarships.

One of the groups that has been lobbying on behalf of this proposal is Agudath Israel of America, and Rabbi A. D. Motzen, the national director of state relations for the Agudah, spoke to Ami about what it would entail.

It is not a program in which the federal government directly gives money to parents, Rabbi Motzen cautioned. Instead, the idea is that it would provide $5 billion nationwide in tax credits to individuals or organizations that donate money to state education scholarship programs, including those who give to yeshivah parents.

Those states with scholarship tax credits already provide donors with tax credits for such donations. But these tax credits are nonrefundable, meaning that they can only reduce or eliminate the donor’s state tax burden. The federal program will provide a credit on their federal taxes for any money they spend beyond the state credit. That is, if a person owes $1,000 in taxes to his state and he gives a donation of $2,000 (and assuming his state has 100 percent credits), the first $1,000 of the donation will eliminate his state tax bill, and the second $1,000 will be applied to his federal tax bill.

This kind of program will hopefully expand donations to these programs. And Rabbi Motzen noted: “Some states don’t have a tax credit program. They can create one—and that’s really the goal of this bill—but even if they don’t, all the states have to do is provide a list of recognized scholarship organizations.” Those organizations will qualify for the federal tax credit. He noted that adding organizations to such a list does not even require the state legislature, just the governor.


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