School Choice & Charters

Sen. Marco Rubio Proposes Federal Tax Credit for Private School Costs

By Sean Cavanagh — December 07, 2012 2 min read
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U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio is widely regarded as one the Republican party’s top emerging brands, and in a far-ranging speech this week, he put forward an idea that’s bound to appeal to conservatives: creating a federal tax credit to help families cover private school costs.

The Florida lawmaker called for creating a corporate tax credit that would apparently support nonprofit organizations, who would provide scholarhips to students for the “private education of their parents’ choosing.”

Tax-credit-funded scholarship programs—considered by many a form of private school voucher—have become popular at the state level, including in Florida, and it seems Rubio believes the idea has applicability at the federal level, too.

“Our tax code should reward investment in education,” Rubio said, during a speech at the Jack Kemp Foundation Dinner. “If you invest in a business by buying a machine, you get a tax credit for the cost. If there is a tax credit for investing in equipment, shouldn’t there be a tax credit for investing in people?

Much of the speech by Rubio, deemed by some a likely 2016 presidential candidate, focused on the role he believes government can play in creating economic opportunities for families—as well as his view of government’s limitations. His speech has been circulated widely in the conservative press, which seems to regard it as as one of the early markers in the race to define the party’s agenda over the next four years, and beyond.

Mitt Romney, the GOP’s most recent presidential nominee, put forward a broad voucher plan that would have allowed families to use a slice of federal special education and Title I money (which helps impoverished students) for private school costs. That idea’s political prospects were probably doubtful, even if Romney had won the election.

Vouchers, and private school tax credits, of course, are adamantly opposed by many Democrats, particularly at the federal level (the picture is more mixed at the state level, particularly on tax credits). Could Democrats inside the Beltway ever embrace tax credits like the one Rubio envisions? At the Thomas B. Fordham Institute’s Choice Words blog, Adam Emerson dissects the partisan implications.

As Rubio’s tax-credit proposal germinates, it’s possible we’ll hear similar complimentary, and contrasting, ideas floated by other Republicans who occupy prominent spots on the national stage.

Photo: U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., speaks during Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad’s annual birthday fundraiser on Nov. 17 in Altoona, Iowa. (Charlie Neibergall/AP)

A version of this news article first appeared in the Charters & Choice blog.