Rhode Island Families for School Choice is asking people to use their legislative contact tool to ask Rhode Island’s representatives and senators to support H7055 and S2655. These bills would increase the cap on the state’s tax credit scholarship program from $1.5 million to $5 million.
In summary, this program allows corporations to donate money to organizations that provide private-school scholarships to low-income students and to receive a tax credit in return. Every year, only a fraction of the corporations that would like to participate are able to do so; raising the cap would simply allow for existing demand to be met.
And the demand should be really high. As is readily visible using the RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity’s interactive tool to explore states’ scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) test, low-income students are not doing very well in the Ocean State. The following chart shows not only that Rhode Island’s low-income students (those eligible for the free or reduced lunch program) are below the scores of the average state, but also that they are going down:
The upswing you can see in that chart from 2003 to 2011 was the period during which a reformist state education board was increasing choice and accountability in Rhode Island’s education system. The year 2011 brought a sort of Empire Strikes Back episode (meaning that entrenched interests like the teachers unions) and a ceiling on our improvement. Now we’re slipping backwards.
A relatively modest increase in the money available to low-income families won’t cure this problem, but it would certainly be a step in the right direction.