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Poll results show strong support for education scholarship tax credit program

The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted Connecticut’s lingering education disparities as schools were closed and thousands of children in struggling school districts fell behind in their learning. Connecticut’s most vulnerable children suffered the burden of trying to learn at home or just not learning at all.

According to a recent poll, 84 percent of parents in Hartford, Bridgeport, Waterbury and Torrington want more flexible education options for their children.

Now, a bill now before the Connecticut legislature may give parents and their children a new opportunity.

An Act Concerning Educational Access and Opportunity Scholarships would allow an income tax credit for private donations made to nonprofit organizations that award education scholarships to children — and the majority of parents polled support this program. The bill will receive a public hearing before the Finance, Revenue and Bonding Committee today.

According to polling data:

  • 84 percent of parents believe there needs to be more flexible education options since the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • 66 percent of parents agree with the statement: “Students in failing school districts should be able to use the education dollars normally spent on them for the educational tools they actually want – like tuition to private schools, tutoring, or supplemental materials.”
  • 60 percent of parents support a tax credit scholarship program.
  • 63 percent of parents agreed with the statement, “The state legislature should create tax incentives or credits for businesses or individuals to give to non-profits that support educational programs.” 

Education scholarship tax credits are powerful tools used by 19 states, including Rhode Island, Illinois, and Pennsylvania, to help connect children with scholarships that give their parents more options about where they attend elementary, middle, and high school.

Connecticut’s own scholarship-granting organizations do tremendous work helping children who live near or below the poverty line—but their budgets limit how many children they can help each year, and many remain on waiting lists. 

Carolanne Marquis is Executive Director of the Children’s Educational Opportunity Foundation of Connecticut, which every year awards scholarship to hundreds of children in Bridgeport, Hartford, East Hartford, New Haven and Waterbury to help them attend private schools.

“All of the 364 CEO Scholars attending their chosen private school this year are doing very well,” Marquis said. “It is the 222 qualified applicants who could not be funded due to lack of funds that makes an opportunity such as a tax credit for donors give us great hope.”

These scholarships proved especially important during the pandemic, when they allowed many Connecticut children to go to school in-person while their neighborhood public schools were closed.

“Now is the time for Connecticut to capitalize on the good-will of its people to get disadvantaged kids the education they need,” said Carol Platt Liebau, President of Yankee Institute. “This tax credit will leverage private donations to help children who have fallen behind because of the pandemic. Parents want this program, children need it, and it won’t cost our public schools a dime.”

“This unprecedented pandemic requires unprecedented education recovery and reform efforts that do not put extra financial burdens on the taxpayers of Connecticut,” said Gwen Samuel, President of the Connecticut Parents Union. “Opportunity scholarships are a clear solution to meet the very diverse educational needs of Connecticut’s children during Covid-19, ensuring we help children get back on track academically while creating a pathway to help them stay on track with additional resources.”

By creating its own tax credit, Connecticut can leverage private donations, bring more money into education help organizations create thousands of additional scholarships—for thousands of disadvantaged children—each year without affecting public school funding. 

**This poll was conducted among N= 539 likely voters who are not employed by the educational system and are residents of Hartford, Bridgeport, Waterbury and Torrington between September 20 and October 13, 2020. The methodology included online panels interviews and landline phone interviews. The survey was conducted by Zoldak Research, a non-partisan polling firm.** 

Yankee Staff

Yankee Institute is a 501(c)(3) research and citizen education organization that does not accept government funding. Yankee Institute develops and advances free-market, limited-government solutions in Connecticut. As one of America’s oldest state-based think tanks, Yankee is a leading advocate for smart, limited government; fairness for taxpayers; and an open road to opportunity.

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