H344 – Credit Where Credit is Due!

Raleigh – The House has a solid WIN-WIN-WIN in H344. The winners are our state’s disabled children, our state’s disabled treasury, and the State Board of Education (SBE).

  • The children win because their parents become eligible to receive a tax credit for getting them education help from private sources.
  • The state treasury wins because the cost of the tax credit is less than the state’s cost in furnishing that help from public sources.
  • The SBE wins because a part of these savings is transferred to a special education fund under its control.

This bill is that rare piece of legislation that everyone can get behind. It broadens parental choice in education for our neediest citizens – low-income children with learning disabilities – by providing up to $6,000 a year in tuition expenses. It saves the state money because the cost to serve these children in the public schools exceeds $8,100 per year per child and saves counties nearly $2,000 per year. Of the state’s savings, the bill allocates $2,000 to a separate “Fund for Special Education and Related Services” under the control of the State Board of Education. The counties save all of their portion.

The definitions of learning disabled are all based on the strict professional assessments required by the federal government under its IDEA law and regulations. A parent cannot merely claim that their child is “disabled” and receive the credit. The child must be assessed in the public school system by special education professionals and have an approved “individualized education program” – IEP. For low-income families whose state tax is less than the allowed credit, they receive reimbursement from the state for the difference.

Georgia and Florida have had similar programs in place for several years and their success is such that nearly 30 states are considering adopting some form of tax credit or “scholarship” for special needs students. Supreme Court rulings have confirmed the constitutionality of these programs.

North Carolina would be well advised to pass this law and brings these benefits to its children, its treasury, and its state board.

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