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Top Trump Education Official: Federal Tax-Credit Scholarships Are ‘Inevitable’

By Alyson Klein — March 07, 2019 2 min read
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It’s “inevitable” that Congress will, at some point, pass a proposal similar to the tax-credit scholarship plan that U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos supports a top department official told a conservative think tank.

Jim Blew, the assistant secretary for planning, evaluation, and policy analysis, said he realizes the legislation, which would give individuals and companies a tax break for donating to scholarship granting organizations, won’t pass “next month.”

“We know there’s a longer battle here,” Blew said on “The Report Card,” a podcast run by the American Enterprise Institute. “We actually believe that enacting this bill is inevitable. The public, the constituents of our members of Congress are strong supporters of having more choices. ... Eventually we will win this battle.”

When the legislation was introduced last week, the top Democrats on education in Congress&dmash;Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., and Rep. Bobby Scott, D-Va.—quickly came out against it. And even the conservative Heritage Foundation, an influential think tank, expressed qualms that it could broaden the federal role in K-12.

But Blew said he hopes the measure could find bipartisan appeal, in part because it’s up to states to decide what to use the scholarships for. Eighteen states currently have similar tax-credit scholarship programs, which are primarily used to help pay tuition at private schools.

However, under the new bill from Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and Rep. Bradley Byrne, R-Ala., states could decide what the scholarships pay for. And it would not have to be private school choice.

“We’re leaving it to states to be creative here,” Blew said. “If a state has a particular issue with career and technical education, we imagine them doing dual apprenticeship scholarships. If they have a problem they want to address in their pre-K population, they can use scholarships for pre-K.”

He also addressed the bill’s conservative critics, including Heritage, which worries a future secretary could monkey with the program once it’s enacted.

“We’ve seen as these programs mature that they gather bipartisan support,” he said. That means lawmakers and the public are less likely to stomach changes to them, he said.

DeVos herself also went on the radio this week to champion the program. She spoke with WIBC’s Tony Katz, a school choice supporter. You can listen to that interview here.

Photo: Swikar Patel for Education Week

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