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EDITORIAL: One bill liberates as another controls

March 3, 2018 Updated: March 3, 2018 at 6:00 pm
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Mini graduation cap on US money -- education costs in the design of information related to the cost of education

One bill seeks to help consumers. Another would limit their options.

Seldom does competing legislation so vividly contrast politicians who advocate for taxpayers and those who prefer state limitation of individual decisions.

The new Republican federal tax law allows parents or guardians with 529 accounts - traditionally used to save for college expenses - to use their money to pay for K-12 tuition at any "elementary or secondary public, private, or religious school."

House Bill 1221 does for the Colorado tax code what the new federal law does for the federal tax code. It gives families more options for the distribution of their education savings money. It is, after all, their money. Parents and guardians probably have any child's best interest at heart when deciding how to invest education funds.

The text of 1221 says the measure "makes similar changes to Colorado law to allow contributions to qualified state tuition programs for kindergarten through twelfth grade expenses thereby allowing a taxpayer to claim a deduction for such contributions and clarifying that such expenses are qualified distributions, ensuring that a taxpayer does not encounter tax recapture of any claimed deductions when such contributions are distributed for kindergarten through twelfth grade school expenses."

For anyone who favors more options in K-12 education, HB1221 is a no-brainer. It means optimizing choices for adults who wish to optimize the early education of kids. The bill's key word: "allowing."

House Bill 1209 does exactly the opposite. Key words: "may not"

Text of 1209 says the measure "amends Colorado law to ensure that a taxpayer may not claim a deduction for contributions to qualified state tuition programs for elementary or secondary school expenses . "

Got that? If this passes, it means legislators decide parents "may not" determine how best to use the money they save for education. They must use it within narrow constraints imposed by politicians - people who don't know beans about the vast majority of individual students throughout Colorado, each with unique needs best understood by the people who love, feed, shelter and clothe them.

Neither bill is likely to survive. Insiders tell us House Democrats plan to kill 1221. Senate Republicans will kill 1209. We're not sure where that leaves Colorado families with 529s.

School choice is not a partisan issue. It has tremendous support on the left and right. More flexibility with 529 plans creates more school choice. Don't reject the concept over partisan anxiety regarding the federal tax law. Love or hate that law, the 529 provision is pro-child, pro-consumer and pro-education.

When considering these bills, forget the political divide. Think about families that could use flexibility in paying for schools their children need. Vote to favor the best possible outcomes for Colorado's kids. Reject a bill that says "may not," and embrace one "allowing" families to choose what is best.

The Gazette editorial board

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