Board Opposes Tax Credit Measure on Private Schools
The Moore County Board of Education opposes legislation that would allow parents of exceptional children to receive a tax credit for attending private schools.
During its regular meeting Monday night, the board unanimously approved a resolution opposing the bill, which was recently passed by the House Education Committee. The measure would provide parents of exceptional children enrolled in nonpublic schools with a refundable tax credit for special education and related services.
Public schools are required by the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) of 1975 to ensure equal education opportunities for students with disabilities, with the provision of services that accommodate students' needs.
Mike Griffin, the school system's finance officer, said private schools are not required to provide the same level of special education services.
"A tax credit would basically roll back the progress achieved by IDEA by allowing educational institutions to operate free of the necessary oversight to ensure that accepting children, funded at taxpayer expense, receive the educational services that they truly need," he said.
This year, the Moore County school system received $3,600 per special needs student from the state in supplemental funding to help the system accommodate the needs of children with disabilities.
Griffin emphasized that this flat fee sometimes does not cover all the costs of providing resources for a special needs child and the tax credit would place more pressure on the school system in its ability to continue providing those services.
"Each tax credit taken by parents through this tax bill would reduce the funding available to public schools," he said.
Board Chairwoman Laura Lang expressed concerns about the potential lack of oversight in the bill.
"We have to follow [IDEA]," she said. "Just because [special needs students] go through [a private school's] doors does not mean they're going to get the service that [public schools] are required to have."
She added that the board's opposition to the bill is not a statement against meeting the needs of children with disabilities.
"It's just the opposite," Lang said. "We are saying we support special needs children. We feel like they will not get the support they need if this bill passes."
The board also approved a budget amendment to accept new federal and state allocations to its current budget.
The system received roughly $7.1 million in a two four-year grants from the federal government for Race to the Top (RTTT) funding. Of that $7.1 million, Moore County received $1,042,563 as its share of RTTT funding, 60 percent of which will go toward system technology upgrades for the 2011-2012 school year.
The remaining $6,122,437 will fund the Sandhills Regional Educational Consortium's leadership academy, which will serve 11 school systems in the Sandhills region.
The money was included in the system's budget report because the Moore County school system is the designated fiscal agent of the funds.
Superintendent Susan Purser was quick to clarify that the school system does not have oversight on how those funds are used.
"We don't make the decisions about how that money is being allocated," she said.
The system also received an allotment of $98,330 in funding from the state to help accommodate increased transportation costs for the rest of the school year.
During his budget update, Griffin also reported that the school system is on track to spend all of its allocated money for the year.
The board also amended its current meeting calendar. The board scheduled a meeting May 23 for the superintendent's evaluation and moved its first June business meeting from June 7 to June 6 to continue the evaluation.
Purser said the meeting was rescheduled because the Moore County Board of Commissioners plans to deliver the county budget June 7.
The next regular meeting will be held June 13.
The board also approved its meeting calendar for the 2011-2012 school year.
Contact Hannah Sharpe at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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