Proponents of school choice are sharing in President Trump’s first major legislative victory, the signing of the Republican tax reform bill on Friday.
Under the to-be-updated tax code, thanks to a provision introduced by Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, parents will be able to use 529 plans, a form of savings account, to pay not only for college, as is currently the case, but also toward expenses for K-12 schooling, including private school tuition.
The provision originally included home schooling costs, but was stripped from the final bill after the Senate parliamentarian ruled that part ineligible under budget reconciliation rules — the mechanism the GOP used to pass tax reform with a simple majority and not face a Democratic filibuster — in that there is no federal tax law related to home schooling.
Attacking his opposition, Cruz rhetorically asked on Twitter, “Why do Democrats want to block 529 expansion that will allow parents to use tax-advantaged savings to cover tutoring services for their homeschoolers?”
Had the home-school part of Cruz’s amendment remained in the final tax bill, families would have been able to spend up to $10,000 per year from the 529 plans toward both grade and middle school expenses which would have also included online schooling, textbooks, and therapies for children with disabilities.
Cruz continued, “Why do Dems want to block 529 expansion that allows parents use tax-advantaged savings to cover costs of special needs education therapies for homeschoolers? Why are they refusing to help families afford occupational, behavioral, physical, speech-language, & audiology therapies?”
In the thread, Cruz pledged to keep fighting for school choice.
Regarding Cruz’s school choice provision, “The 529 expansion is nice, but doesn't do much to expand school choice,” a policy analyst from a national school choice organization, who asked not to be named, told Red Alert Politics. “It's a tax shield for higher-income families, but doesn't help lower-income families.”
The policy analyst continued, “Low-income families can technically benefit [it's open to anyone], but they tend not to have much income to invest in 529 plans, or much of a tax liability, so it has very limited value to them.”
Another education-related provision was also modified, which levied a 1.4 percent excise tax on investment income at private colleges with a minimum enrollment of 500 students and with assets, like an endowment, valued at $500,000 for each full-time student. The original provision called for levying the tax at private higher education institutions with a minimum enrollment of 500 students, with assets at half the now-final cost per full-time student.
Jackson Richman (@JacksonRichman) is a political science graduate of George Washington University.