Opponent Arguments Batted Down, HB 1048 Stuck in Legislative Sausage Maker

A few weeks ago I told you about the “voucher bogeyman” fearmongering around Colorado House Bill 1048 (PDF) — which would provide non-refundable tax credits to parents or donors supporting a student’s private school tuition or home education. (And therefore, not a “subsidy” as was headlined and reported with a strong anti-choice slant on the Denver Post‘s blog. To expound further by quoting from said post might get me in legal trouble, and I’m too young to be able to afford a lawyer.)

Well, the bill finally got a hearing yesterday afternoon before the House Finance Committee. A fairly long one. And ultimately an indecisive one. Education News Colorado has the best account I’ve seen:

After dark had fallen and the witness list was exhausted, [committee chair Rep. Brian] DelGrosso said, “I think we have raised several questions” and that “trying to piecemeal some amendments might not be the wisest decision.”

“I’m going to lay it over a couple of weeks,” he told [bill sponsor Rep. Spencer] Swalm. “Maybe you can give the committee a couple of different options.”

So now it’s time to hurry up and wait again. I’m learning that’s just sometimes how it goes in the big people’s sausage maker known as the legislative process.

Down at the Capitol my Education Policy Center friend Ben DeGrow was one of more than a dozen who testified. Among other things, he pointed out his research from the Citizens’ Budget that showed how a similar tuition tax credit program would save a lot of money for the state (vindicated by the fine work of legislative fiscal analyst Natalie Mullis) as well as for local school districts. The response from bill opponents at the Colorado Education Association to this well-founded argument?

The bill’s sponsors are trying to sell the bill as a way to save the state money. Really.

Yes. Really. (Maybe as a 5-year-old, some might think I ought to respond with something equivalent, like sticking out my tongue and saying, “Are too!” But I’m above that sort of thing.)

In addition to highlighting the favorable research on the impacts of private school choice programs, Ben also responded to another claim brought forward by CEA’s lobbyist straight from their blog:

We oppose HB 1048 because we do not believe in using public dollars for private and religious schools.

Then what about the millions of dollars Colorado public schools spend each year on “tuition paid to private schools or non-approved agencies”? Maybe that’s not such a big deal after all. Maybe it’s the fact that parents get to choose how the money is spent that some find so disturbing.

Giving families more choices (and promising ones at that) and saving money for the state and local schools. Some might even call that a no-brainer.