Louisiana Amendment Would Offer Rebates for School Donations

The Louisiana State Senate has attached an amendment to the HB-1106, which deals with the state budget, that would offer a rebate to businesses and private individuals who financially contributed to improving the state’s public schools. Governor Bobby Jindal, along with the state’s Superintendent of Education John White, have expressed a strong objection to the amendment, introduced into the House version of the bill by the Representative Katrina Jackson.

Jackson explained that she viewed the proposal as “standing up” for public school students of Louisiana who she felt were being harmed by the wide-reaching voucher program championed and recently signed into law by Jindal.

“We’re voting for the 95 percent of the children left in public schools that we have to educate,” Jackson said, referring to a new statewide voucher program that would send some public school students to private schools.

The bill would offer a 25% state tax rebate to any entity making a financial contribution to a public school rated a “B” or a “C” under the school evaluation standards. The rebate percentage would go up to 50% if the donation is to a D-rated school and to 75% for donations to failing schools. Unlike the voucher program, whose supporters managed to fight off a $300 million program cap during the legislative negotiations, the Jackson said that the rebate program will be limited to only $10 million.

The opponents, however, disagree with that assessment. Although the bill does contain a hard cap number, according to the Commissioner of Administration Paul Rainwater, there’s a language in the bill that basically negates it. A mechanism embedded in the amendment calls for raising of the cap if the total rebates issued in any one year go over $9 million.

Although the donation to the voucher fund aren’t limited and offer 95% cash rebates, Palmieri explained that the state would still be saving money because of the expectation that a voucher for a student costs less than the price of educating the same student in a public school.

The bill requires that each donation “shall be used by the public school for purchasing instructional materials and supplies used in classrooms or in tutorial programs to enhance student learning, for costs and expenses in establishing and maintaining tutorial programs designed to enhance student academic achievement, for costs and expenses in establishing and maintaining in-school child care programs for student parents, or for meeting any of the requirements prescribed for academically unacceptable schools.”

The bill, with the new amendment has now passed out of the Senate Revenue and Fiscal Affairs Committee and will be considered by the full legislative body and, at the same time, by the Senate Finance Committee.