Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) has proposed changes to the Internal Revenue Service tax code to broaden education choice options, including incentives and penalties for states (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
WASHINGTON. D.C. – In the closing hours of the first session of the 118th Congress, Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) proposed new legislation that would put some real teeth into Republican proposals for school choice nationwide.
“It is the fundamental right of parents to choose the educational path that is most suitable for their children,” Lee said, after introducing the Achieving Choice in Education (ACE) Act into the Senate on Dec. 14.
“The ACE Act ensures that our tax system reflects this principle and provides real support to those seeking alternatives to public schooling.”
So where’s the teeth?
While increasing tax exemptions for qualified programs under Section 529 of the Internal Revenue Service code of 1986, the ACE Act would also adjust the federal tax exemption on municipal bonds – typically used for school construction projects — to incentivize states that adopt school choice programs.
For example, states with no qualifying school choice laws will see the tax-exempt status of municipal bonds for local projects – including new school construction – revoked, according to members of Lee’s staff.
States that adopt school choice programs, however, will benefit from a 50 percent exemption on bond interest.
Meanwhile, states that fully embrace school choice programs will enjoy a complete tax exemption.
Across Capitol Hill, similar legislation is being introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives by Rep. Eric Wayne Burlison (R-MO).
Lee staff members explain that the ACE Act provides federal tax incentives for families to save money for qualified education expenses and broaden tax exemptions for those programs under Section 529 of the IRS code to make financing school alternatives easier for parents.
Specifically, Lee’s proposal would double the allowable amount of contributions to 529 accounts and distributions from those accounts to $20,000 per year.
Increasing those limits on 529 accounts, Burlison said, will free families from the arbitrary link between where they live and which school their child can attend.
Teachers’ unions nationwide have traditionally opposed any broadening school choice options.
But conservative parents contend that the changes similar to those included in Lee’s ACE Act are needed in areas where the teaching of critical race theory and WOKE ideology is widely accepted.
“It is vitally important for parents,” Lee agreed, “who truly know what is best for their children, to have educational alternatives available to them, rather than being forced to send their children to public schools where curricula contrary to what they want is being taught or where they deem that the quality or style of instruction is unsatisfactory.”