As a former public-school teacher in a deeply impoverished Connecticut city, it is heartening to see elected leaders from both sides of the aisle put aside partisan politics in favor of sound public policy that will benefit kids in and out of our public schools.
HB 6175, is a bipartisan bill that will help fund educational scholarships for disadvantaged children by allowing private donors who give to nonprofit scholarship granting organizations to receive a limited tax credit.
One of the main reasons I support this commonsense legislation is the bill does not take money or resources away from public schools. In fact, by providing scholarships to children, many whom are on waiting lists, we will see a direct impact on class size. Public school class size is one of the leading indicators for student success.
It isn’t fair that only parents with means can give their children the best educational opportunities by choosing where to live based on the town’s school system or having the ability to send their children to private or parochial school.
As a teacher, I worked with students from all different families, backgrounds and environments. I had many students with an interest and motivation for learning and achieving, but who found it difficult to focus while in the classroom.
Oftentimes, distracting behaviors of other students would slow the progression of content and pace in the classroom, making it difficult to assess the level of challenge these students needed. As a result, students who were ready to move forward with the content would become frustrated, bored and disengaged.
Many of these students will not have the opportunity to attend private school due to lack of financial resources. Private school settings can be extremely advantageous for students because of their smaller class numbers, and many private schools have better and more accessible technology resources and curriculum materials for students.
Scholarship-granting organizations (SGOs) grant scholarships to pay for all or part of private school tuition. This bill could allow up to $25 million in tax credits to donors who support scholarships for these students, incentivizing them to donate more and thus give more students an opportunity to pursue learning in a private or parochial school.
The $25 million is a cap for the total tax credit that could be deducted in one year. This is the same tax credit cap granted to the film industry in Connecticut.
While this film tax credit may be nice for film production studios, it does not help close the student achievement gap – a gap that is widening due to remote learning during the pandemic.
Students given the opportunity to learn in an environment with smaller class sizes and better resources will undoubtedly have more opportunities open to them in the future, such as college scholarships and grants to support post-secondary learning.
Many of these students from low-income cities will be the first of their families to graduate high school or attend college. SGOs are important to opening these doors for students who otherwise may not have them and are essential to break the cycle of poverty by producing generations of better educated and more prepared youth for the working world.
This opportunity should not be wasted, our children deserve a level playing field. At the public hearing on HB 6175 there were no dissenting voices, and the diversity of supporters ranged from Black Lives Matter 860 President Michael Oretade to a representative from the Cato Institute.
The bill was introduced by Representatives Terrie Wood and Tami Zawistowski and continues to gain momentum with many Democratic representatives signing on as co-sponsors. In an era of intense political bickering, such bipartisanship across political parties is a welcome change for the better.
I ask all those concerned about education to call on their senators or representatives to support educational scholarships for those students who need them most.
Jacqueline DeMars is a former third-grade public school teacher, with a Master’s Degree in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of Saint Joseph. She received her undergraduate degree from Quinnipiac University, and has a background in social work.
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