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North Carolina Legislature Passes Bipartisan Special Needs Tax Credit Plan

Posted on Friday June 17, 2011 | North Carolina

New measure is step forward in creating more educational opportunities for Tar Heel families

Washington, D.C. (June 17, 2011) – Families of children with special needs in North Carolina have new hope, thanks to a new tax credit program passed yesterday by the legislature and awaiting approval by the governor.

The American Federation for Children (www.FederationForChildren.org) today joined Parents for Educational Freedom in North Carolina (PEFNC) in calling on Governor Beverly Perdue to sign the legislation immediately.

The bill, entitled House Bill 344 and sponsored by House Majority Leader Paul Stam, would allow parents of special needs children to receive a tax credit for costs incurred for private school, tutoring, or therapy. It was met with overwhelming bipartisan support, passing the House by a 94-20 margin and a 44-5 margin in the Senate. A total of 65 percent of Democratic legislators supported the measure, and PEFNC led the effort to generate support for the proposal, rallying thousands of parents on behalf of school choice.

If enacted, North Carolina would become the 14th state or jurisdiction in the United States to provide parents with access to private schools through school vouchers or tax credits.

“Parents in North Carolina are one step closer to gaining access to critically important choices for their children,” said Kevin P. Chavous, an AFC board member and the board chair of Democrats for Education Reform. “We call on Governor Perdue to sign the bill into law, as we owe the thousands of families with special needs children across the state the same opportunity afforded to so many other families. This bill is a crucial step towards expanding educational options to all.”

At a current cost of more than $10,000 per student to the state and local school districts, there are nearly 200,000 public school students statewide who are currently receiving special education.  It’s estimated that up to five percent of qualified students will take advantage of the new special needs credit, which could result in savings of up to $10 million to taxpayers over the next five years. School districts are also poised to save up to $4 million over the same time period.

The successful passage of House Bill 344 is an important step forward in the effort to ensure all low-income Tar Heel families have access to quality educational options. It comes just a week after the legislature voted to eliminate the state’s 100-school cap on charter schools, a measure that also passed with strong bipartisan support.

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