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House Dems name members of tuition tax credit task force

House Democrats today named eight members, including three Republicans, to serve on their newly formed Task Force on Private School Tuition Tax Credits program.

Billed as a bipartisan panel, Democrats announced that the task force will be chaired by Rep. David Schapira, a Democrat from Tempe, with Tom Chabin, a Democrat from Flagstaff, named vice chair.

Also named to the panel were: House Democratic Whip Chad Campbell of Phoenix; Rep. Nancy Young Wright, a Democrat from Tucson; Rep. Cloves Campbell, a Democrat from Phoenix; Rep. Rich Crandall, a Republican from Mesa; Rep. Doris Goodale, a Republican from Kingman, and Rep. Steve Court, a Republican from Mesa.

Schapira said Democrats and Republicans must work together “to ensure this program is effective for Arizona’s school children and that it’s not violating state and federal laws in the future.”

“I commend those who have joined the task force to build education for a stronger Arizona,” Schapira stated in a press release.

The task force will hold its first meeting on Sept. 21 at 10 a.m. in House Hearing Room 3.

On Aug. 11, House Democrats requested an investigation into the state’s Private School Tuition Tax Credits program, which reportedly is violating several federal and state laws. House Democrats also announced the creation of the task force specifically to address the program’s problems and work on bipartisan legislation to reform it.

House Democratic Leader David Lujan said, “Too many questions and concerns have been raised about this program and its reported violations of various laws,”. “The task force will be essential to address this problem and correct it.”

Recent investigations by East Valley Tribune and The Arizona Republic detail the potentially huge problems and reported illegal activities that come from this tax credit program.

The program allows taxpayers to donate money to school tuition organizations, or nonprofit charities. These STOs then give scholarships to children for private school tuition. In return, the state matches the donations with a tax credit in exchange for their contribution.

The program was signed into law in 1997 by then-Gov. Fife Symington, a Republican, and was supposed to make private education more accessible to families who can’t afford it. But so far, newspaper reports indicate that hasn’t happened.

For instance, according to the Tribune, STOs reportedly are violating federal tax laws that govern charitable organizations by operating with donations earmarked for particular individuals. They also reportedly are violating state law by not committing a sufficient portion of the donations to students while buying luxury items.

Both newspapers’ investigative reports can be accessed online at www.eastvalleytribune.com and www.azcentral.com.

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