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Committee considering tax credits for home-schooling and private school

A Senate committee is considering a bill that would give parents who send their children to non-public schools, or home-school, a tax credit.

It would be $500 per child.

That bill – HB 1281 – has already passed the House on a 50 to 44 vote.

The bill’s main sponsor, Rep. Sebastian Ertelt (R-Lisbon), told the Senate Finance and Taxation Committee this is not a school voucher program.

"A tax credit is a recognition that tax is not due," Ertelt said. "These are not public dollars - they belong to the individual."

David Del Padre is a teacher and administrator at the Hope Christian Academy in Dickinson. He told the Senate Finance and Taxation Committee he rejects the argument that this is unconstitutional support for private schools.

"It actually honors the tradition of American parents, that they are the primary educators of their children," Del Padre said. "It is simply the government's responsibility to support that, and to provide services as necessary for those who can't educate their own children."

North Dakota United president Nick Archuleta told the Committee it is nothing more than a voucher program – and it will divert money away from public schools.

"Dollars that are allocated to North Dakota public schools are managed by locally elected school boards," Archuleta said. "They're held responsible for assuring that the money is spent for the purposes for which they are allocated."

Archuleta said there is no public accountability for the money, once it is diverted to a private school, or to parents or guardians of home school students.

"Private schools and home schools have nearly complete autonomy regarding how they operate, what they teach and how they manage funds under their control."

Opponents argued it may be unconstitutional. Grand Forks School Superintendent Dr. Terry Brenner told the Committee between the proposed flat-funding of per-pupil payments, and the passage of this bill, it sends a message as to how lawmakers view public education.

"Please oppose HB 1281, as it portrays an anti-public education message," Brenner said. "And it is the beginning of a voucher system."

The committee did not take immediate action.

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