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Substitute tuition bill unveiled

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A substitute tuition tax credits bill was publicly unveiled Thursday by its sponsor and a colleague once worried about extending the credits to students currently in private schools.

Rep. Steve Mascaro, R-West Jordan, says he will co-sponsor Substitute HB39, carried by Rep. Jim Ferrin, R-Orem.

"If the fiscal analyst says the bill is too costly, (Ferrin) and I will get together and find a way to make it so it's not too costly," Mascaro said.

Current private school students have been left out of past bills because they would pull tens of millions of dollars out of the schools' pot. Ferrin believes slanting credits toward the poor would prevent that.

The fiscal analyst will determine bill impacts in the next week or so, Ferrin said.

Meanwhile, the Utah Catholic Schools system is gathering data to help inform discussion about the bill. Superintendent Sister Catherine Kamphaus so far surmises about 200 of 5,500 students would qualify for free- or reduced-price school lunch — the threshold for the largest tax credit. The majority are upper-middle-class families.

"We don't have that many low-income people, but we do (have them), and it would service . . . our families who struggle to have their kids in our schools or have to leave because of finances," Sister Kamphaus said.

Substitute HB39 offers a tax credit up to $3,750 for families qualifying for reduced-price school lunch. The credit would bottom out at $500 for families making 275 percent to 300 percent of the reduced-price benchmark.

Families of five making $40,756 would get the full credit; those making $122,268 a year would get $500.

The State Board of Education meets this morning to take positions on this and other legislation, said spokesman Mark Peterson.

E-mail: jtcook@desnews.com