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Carol’s Column: A Chance to Transform Kids’ Lives

For many of us, being a parent may be most exciting creative endeavor of our lifetimes. It’s a dramatic example of our having been able to make something out of nothing. And experiencing the depth of parental love unites those with otherwise very little in common. 

Yesterday, that shared experience played a role in spurring a diverse group to testify on behalf of HB 6175. It establishes a tax credit for donations made to nonprofits that provide scholarships to disadvantaged kids in Connecticut. 

Here’s how such a bill could work. Right now, hundreds of disadvantaged students are attending schools their parents couldn’t otherwise afford, thanks to privately funded scholarships that cost the state nothing. But hundreds more kids are stuck on waiting lists. A state tax credit offsetting a portion of the donations for these scholarships will encourage people to give more, and for new people to start giving. 

HB 6175 will literally transform lives. At yesterday’s hearing, Dr. Carolanne Marquis told the story about getting a call from a mom whose fifth-grade daughter could neither read, write, nor do basic math. And with COVID, distance learning was proving to be an insuperable challenge. 

Dr. Marquis, who runs the Children’s Educational Opportunity Foundation, helped that mom get a scholarship for her daughter and placement in a very special private school, where she received daily reading and math instructions – as well as piano lessons. Thanks to the instruction and extra attention made possible by that scholarship, this same young lady is now reading and well on her way to testing at grade level—but only because a scholarship was available for her. 

There are many Connecticut children like this one – who simply need a different environment to reach their full potential. Or perhaps they’re not being challenged in their current public school, or they’re being bullied and need a change. The need is great. Last year, for example, Children’s Educational Foundation was able to fund 364 scholarships, but that left 222 children on their waiting list. This year, it received 254 applications in just six days.

Connecticut rightly takes pride in its educational pedigree. We have some of the finest K-12 public schools in the nation, and we spend more per student than any state but New York. And when that hasn’t been enough, our state officials have been willing to innovate  to help our kids, supporting charter schools, magnet schools, and other alternative programs. 

HB 6175 would simply add one more tool to that arsenal – and it would do so without taking a single dollar from our public schools or having any impact on the way they are funded. It would simply encourage an increased volume of private giving using a small portion of the expected $1 billion increase in income tax receipts state officials expect over the next three years. Similar programs are already working in Illinois, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Florida. In fact, by at least one independent analysis, Florida’s tax credit  pays for itself – as good an example as we may ever see in public policy of getting something for nothing. 

Our schools are supposed to be the great engine of opportunity, the equalizers, and the way we prepare all our kids to succeed. And whatever may divide us when it comes to politics, life experience, or anything else, one truth remains immutable: each child in Connecticut is as precious to his or her mom as mine are to me. How heartening to remember that even in these fraught times, there’s still plenty that unites us. 

To make your voice heard on behalf of HB 6175, reach out to your legislator here:

Carol Platt Liebau

Carol has worked as an attorney, author, political and policy advisor, and media commentator. In addition to practicing law, she has served as legislative assistant to Senator Christopher S. “Kit” Bond of Missouri; as a consultant to the U.S. Senate campaigns of John D. Ashcroft of Missouri (1994) and Congressman Tom Campbell of California (2000 and 2010); and as law clerk to Reagan appointee Judge David B. Sentelle of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit.

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