Parents for Educational Freedom in North Carolina, the pro-voucher lobbying group behind a tax credit scholarship legislation, spent nearly $16,000 for a May rally that bused students in from Christian schools.
The group paid for transportation, T-shirts and rally signs for the May 21 rally in support of a controversial tax credit scholarship program that would divert state money to pay for scholarships to private or religious schools.
The rally, in which House Majority Leader Paul “Skip” Stam, an Apex Republican, announced he was filing House Bill 1104 establishing the voucher alternative, had attendance of nearly 1,000 children, parents and teachers.
It looks like PEFNC paid handsomely to get a crowd that size – lobbying records filed yesterday with the N.C. Secretary of State’s Office show the $16,000 the group spent on the rally included $9,154 renting vans and buses to bring children in from around the state and $3,460 on printing T-shirts for the crowd.
(To see a copy of the PEFNC’s lobbying expenses for the rally, click here.)
Stam’s plan, which was included in the House version of the budget but not the Senate’s version, would allow corporations to get a dollar-for-dollar credit on state taxes when they provide $4,000 scholarships to low-income children to attend private or religious schools.
The tax credit program has been active in other states, including Georgia where the New York Times found that loopholes in that state’s program allowed wealthy families to benefit.
In North Carolina, Stam’s plan would take $40 million out of tax revenues and divert the money to the private schools, a move that public educational proponents say will be another blow to the already struggling schools while sending children to schools that aren’t accountable to state standards.
PEFNC is also the same group that paid to fly a group of lawmakers, including House Speaker Thom Tillis, to Florida in mid-March to get a positive take on how the program is working in Florida. While the group maintains that the primary purpose of the bipartisan trip was educational, and thus allowable under North Carolina’s strict lobbying laws, good government groups have questioned whether it was more about trying to influence key legislators to support legislation.