Michael Kennedy

Young children are often taught a multitude of valuable lessons from Aesop, the Greek fabulist, to Hans Christian Andersen, the Danish storyteller. Through animism, these allegorical myths and fairy tales teach valuable principles that are good to live by.

One such story tells of a frog who seeks freedom and attempts to make his way out of a well. Referenced by many as simply "Frog in a Well," we can all identify with the determined little frog who consistently took "... two steps forward and then fell one step back ..." towards an abyss. The story goes on to explain how the little frog attained his goal, but only through persistent forward movement.

As American citizens take the time to study the new tax reform bill, it would do us good to remember the catchphrase "two steps forward, one step back" and also the frog who refused to give up in his quest to find a better life. While the GOP has taken a step back on several key issues throughout the last few months, the 2018 tax bill is now moving forward with an agenda that has the potential to get America out of a very deep well.

Let us consider educational reform under both the 2018 budget and the recently released tax reform bill. This is one of the many areas where there has been great opposition, but also systematic movement in the right direction by the GOP.

The step back

Many will recall that throughout the summer and into early October, numerous media outlets published articles detailing a Senate panel's rejection and "big blow" to the K-12 budget. In short, senators were opposed to the $250 million that was requested for the Education Innovation and Research Program. If this increase had been approved, tuition scholarship organizations could have been given authority to indirectly utilize public funding for students of low-income families to attend a private school of their choice. However, many senators refused to let the request move forward, and some congressional leaders even attempted to enact new legislation, barring the DOE from funding tax credit initiatives that would benefit private education.

Two steps forward

Although this was a clear setback for school choice advocates and the Department of Education, it has not hindered school choice from moving forward under tax reform proposals. Advocates for private and faith-based school choice have long envisioned programs and tax incentives that would advance educational equity. While some have criticized these innovative programs that would benefit the private education sector, the 2018 tax reform bill now provides another great opportunity to expand school choice in America.

Under the proposed changes, the Department of Education would redefine the existing 529 Savings Plan and extend numerous benefits to parents who desire to save for private K-12 expenses. In essence, this would be the largest tax reform initiative benefiting K-12 faith-based schools in the history of modern education and, in my humble opinion, two steps forward.

The 529 Savings Plan was originally established to assist parents as they work to save for the expenses related to college education. Under this plan, parents have been able to withdraw money tax-free and even earn interest. In California, the current plan is known by the name Scholar Share and, as stated by the California Department of Education, "... 100% tax-free growth is the way to go." So one can only imagine how an expansion of the 529 plan into private K-12 education will bring even more benefit. Proposed changes would include expanding the family savings allowable to $10,000 per year for private school tuition, and allowing a family to start saving before a child is even born.

Those who support the GOP's proposed changes to the 529 Savings Plan should take the time to contact their congressional representative, as this expansion of parental choice in education requires House and Senate approval. Now is the time to let your elected officials know that we need equity in education and tax reform.

Michael Kennedy is a lifetime resident of Bakersfield and principal of Bethel Christian School.