Two state legislators announced Thursday their intentions to introduce a bill that would provide assistance to parents seeking to enroll their children in alternative schools.
The bill, authored by Sen. Glenn Grothman, R-West Bend, and Rep. Andre Jacque, R-Bellevue, would offer parents of first and ninth graders enrolling in parochial and private schools a non-refundable tax credit of $1,500 and $2,500 per student, respectively. The tax credits would be extended to second and 10th graders the following year, with additional grades added every subsequent year until all students are covered by 2021.
“With the government already subsidizing private education by up to $6,500 per year for Milwaukee residents, the proposal would offer assistance, albeit a lesser amount, for outstate parents who want an alternative to the public school for their children,” Grothman said.
Grothman said the proposal would save money because every time a person goes to a private school instead of a public school it saves the state around $10,000 a person.
He also said the bill would allow parents upset with their current school system another option.
“Whether their concerns are Wisconsin’s declining test scores, a radical new sex education program pushed through the Legislature last year or public school teachers proselytizing a liberal political agenda in their schools, it is unfair not to provide a little assistance to independent-minded parents,” Grothman said.
When asked if the provisions in the bill to give tax credits specifically to parents whose children attend private parochial schools would challenge separation of church and state, Grothman said his bill did not imply state support for religious institutions and pointed out other states like Minnesota had a similar law.
Co-President of the Freedom From Religion Foundation Annie Gaylor said she could not tell if the bill came close to state sponsorship of a religious institution until she thoroughly read the bill’s language. However, she said the bill was unfair, and her general reaction was that it would be unconstitutional.
“Parents putting their kids in private school are saying we want a rebate,” Gaylor said. “That doesn’t wash because all of us who pay public taxes are supporting schools whether we’re single, retired, our kids are out of school or whether we like kids or not.”