Board adopts resolution, raises funding concerns
Already facing budget cuts on the local and state level, the Union County Board of Education voiced their opposition Tuesday, May 3 to a bill they feel would end up draining their coffers further. By a unanimous vote, the board adopted a resolution opposing House Bill 344, which would grant tax credits to families with disabled children.
The bill would grant parents of exceptional children enrolled in nonpublic schools a tax credit of up to $6,000 per school year for special education and related expenses. In order to qualify, the child would have to initially be enrolled in a public school, then be determined to require an individualized education plan. The problem for school officials is that public schools already pay for that cost if they can’t offer the services that meet a child’s needs and the funding for the tax credit would be pulled out of the education portion of the state budget, further shrinking what’s available.
“The passage of this bill could have serious fiscal consequences for UCPS,” Union County Superintendent Ed Davis wrote to the school board. “Though it is not possible to predict the number of home schooled or private schooled students with disabilities, for every eight parents that would pursue this tax credit, (the district) would lose one (exceptional needs) teacher.”
The problem, board members said, is that since private schools can select which students they accept, a tax credit system like this would allow them to pick those exceptional children who require minimal assistance, such as additional testing time or small individual tutoring periods outside the classroom. Public schools meanwhile would accept those children with more severe disabilities, however with less funding to assist them.
North Carolina provides each district with a flat, per child rate for exceptional education. Any costs above that have to be met by the district out of its operational budget. For the current school year, the state provided funding of $3,598.55 per child. All total this year, Union County received $13,210,277 in state funding to educate exceptional children.
“It’s a refundable tax credit,” Board Chairman Dean Arp said. “I’m concerned it allows people who haven’t paid into the system to get something back.”
The House Education Committee passed HB344 April 26 and now it goes before the entire body for a vote.