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One bill that would give vouchers to poorer kids for private schooling has stalled in the General Assembly. And, all things considered, it's probably for the best. Senate Bill 539 would have created a dollar-for-dollar tax credit for folks who'd donate to the scholarship fund. That's not the best way to do this.

SB539 would have allowed taxpayers, or even corporations, to donate to the private school scholarship fund. And it would have created private school vouchers for 400-some-odd families. According to the papers, the credits could have been used to offset some or all of the income taxes due in a given year, and unused credits could have been carried for five years.

That would have affected the state's bottom line. Imagine if some of Arkansas' more wealthy people and corporations earmarked all their taxes to the program. (No wonder it stalled in the Legislature.)

A better bill was Senate Bill 620. There's a reason the governor preferred this one.

SB620 would have created a voucher program using discretionary funds from the administration. And would've focused on Pulaski County only, where the private schools, and the kids in the most challenging ZIP codes, happen to be. It was a pilot program, and would have lasted five years. Not only providing the kids with the most needs a chance to escape failing schools, but it would've given the program time to develop, and give We the People enough evidence (that is, test scores, graduation rates) to see if the program was worth continuing.

Word around the campfire is that both bills are dead. Shame, too.

Any time there is any reform attempted in education, there will be opposition. Unless you're talking about showering the current system with more tax money, the opposition is sure to appear at committee hearings.

There will be those who claim vouchers harm public schools. Answer: There's a reason families would readily accept the vouchers.

There will be those who claim that vouchers, like charter schools, suck money from the traditional school districts. Answer: There's a reason charter schools are popular.

There will be those who claim that vouchers send kids to unaccountable schools. Answer: Tell it to families that can already afford private school tuition, and the kids of those families going to college next fall.

This session of the Arkansas General Assembly isn't quite over. But we understand SB539 and SB620 won't be saved. Children in the poorest parts of our society will have to wait till the next session before another attempt can be made to save them. Our considered editorial opinion, which is more considered on this topic than a lot: Try SB620 again.

Editorial on 04/06/2019

Print Headline: Try, try again?

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