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Senators Fail (So Far) to Attach School Choice Measures to Tax Bill

By Andrew Ujifusa — November 30, 2017 1 min read
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UPDATE: The proposed amendments described below from Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., are not slated to receive a vote, according to a source.

A proposed amendment to the Senate tax bill resembles the House legislation’s plan to allow for college savings plans to be used for private school choice expenses.

Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., introduced the amendment to the Senate’s version of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which the full chamber could vote on very soon. Like the House tax bill, Gardner’s proposal would allow money in 529 college savings accounts to be used for elementary and secondary education expenses, including those for private school tuition. Using 529 money towards these expenses would be capped at $10,000 annually.

Gardner’s amendment would also allow individuals to use 529 savings for “qualified early education expenses.” And it would allow 529 money to be used for career and technical education and industry certification programs, under certain conditions.

During earlier consideration of the GOP-backed Senate bill, two senators proposed amendments to create tax credits related to private school expenses. But those proposals from Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, and Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., have not been incorporated into the bill so far.

Gardner has also proposed a change to the tax bill that would allow money in 529 savings plans to be used for apprenticeship programs. Such a program would have to be registered and certified with the secretary of labor.

School choice advocates have cheered the House legislation’s change to 529 plans. It would represent the first legislative victory for those advocates in Congress this year. The Senate could hold a final vote on the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act later this week. We’ll be watching Gardner’s amendments and update this post as needed.

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