A New Day Begins: Tax Credit Will Brighten Future for America’s Kids

Published on January 1, 1999   |  Trent Franks

In April of 1997, forty-eight valiant souls, thirty-one members of the House of Representatives, sixteen Senators and the Governor of Arizona, joined together and passed the historic and revolutionary Tuition Tax Credit Legislation. To all who understand the specifics and implications of this legislation, there is abiding conviction that it will be upheld in the State and U.S. Supreme Courts, and that a new day will have dawned in America.

The bill is both simple and profound. It will allow taxpayers to receive up to a $500 tax credit when they make private, voluntary contributions to charities that use at least 90 percent of the money to provide private scholarships for children in Arizona, and hopefully someday in America, to attend the school of their parents’ choice. Even the poorest child now becomes royalty in the system. In the past, only wealthy parents could afford their children such an opportunity.

This legislation is far beyond and very different than the long-debated voucher approach. The source of voucher funding is appropriated public money, which brings constitutional challenges if religious schools are involved.

However, the Tuition Tax Credit is completely constitutional because it allows private individuals to claim a tax credit on their tax return when they make voluntary contributions to charities providing private scholarships to children. Parents are then free to choose the school they deem best, religious or otherwise, and neither the school nor the parents have to fear intrusive government strings that come with government funding.

Thomas Jefferson said, “The purpose of education it to create young citizens with knowing heads and loving hearts.” Abraham Lincoln said, “The philosophy of today’s classroom is the philosophy of tomorrow’s government.” All of us intrinsically know that the spiritual, social, and academic principles inculcated into the hearts and minds of our children establish, more than any other mortal factor, the paradigm of America’s future. Will we primarily trust a government-run bureaucracy or the parents to determine those principles? It is a question of inexpressible gravity.

The American educational system is one of the last experiments in socialism left on earth and, on its present course, it will take its place in the succession of socialist wreckages that litter the highway of human history. Greater still will be the attending loss of many great American truths and principles in the mind and memory of future generations.

Fortunately, there is still time to rediscover that the proven principle of competitive free enterprise, which gave America the most powerful economy in the history of humankind, can also restore greatness to America’s educational system.

When competition came to the United States Postal Service from private companies like Federal Express, it did not destroy the postal system as some said it would. It actually brought quiet revolution to a postal service that today can move a first class letter across the country in two days rather than seven, and that is now completely self-sustained through postage revenues rather than the billions of taxpayer dollars in subsidies it once required. If we deem the mail important enough to bring competition to bear in its expedition, how can we not afford the nation’s children the same advantage and priority?

Parents are then free to choose the school they deem best, religious or otherwise, and neither the school nor parents have to fear intrusive government strings.

The first purpose of any human government should be to protect its citizens (especially its children) and in all things to give each of them the best opportunity to know the truth and to lay hold on the beautiful and precious things in this brief, God-given miracle called life. Indeed, that is what the human struggle has truly been all about from the borne of time. To miss that is to miss it all.

So, to each of you who have had, or will have, a part in bringing this historic educational reform to fruition on behalf of America’s children and our posterity, I would contend that the councils of eternity will deem your efforts worthwhile.

Trent Franks is a former Member of the Arizona House of Representatives and was the author and leading proponent of the successful passage of the Tuition Tax Credit Bill in Arizona.

Prevailing Status: On October 5th, 1999, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected the NEA and ACLU challenge and allowed the Arizona Scholarship Tax Credit to stand as written. Certiorari was later granted, and in 2011 the Supreme Court upheld the STC on the merits. Franks’ original language was once again the substance of the Landmark U.S. Supreme Court case, Espinoza versus Montana, that finally ended the reign of the anti-religious Blaine Amendments in state constitutions across America in 2020. In terms of parental empowerment in education, societal impact, and religious freedom, the Scholarship Tax Credit may prove to be the most significant educational reform in the Nation’s history and a momentous turning point for America and her posterity.


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