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U.S. Senate again approves education savings accounts

WASHINGTON (BP)–Education reform that would allow tax-free savings accounts to be used for public and private schooling at the elementary and secondary levels has sailed through the U.S. Senate, but the proposal appears destined to sink again when it reaches the White House.

The Senate voted 61-37 in favor of the Affordable Education Act, which includes the proposal for education savings accounts. The House of Representatives has yet to vote on the measure in this session.

The measure would permit parents or others to place as much as $2,000 a year for a child in an account with no tax on the interest if it is used for education. This post-tax money could be used for kindergarten through 12th-grade students at private, religious or home schools, but it also could be utilized for such expenses as tutoring, uniforms or home computers for public-school students. Such accounts already are permitted at the college level for as much as $500. The bill would allow accounts to roll over for use in college if they are not utilized previously.

“Increasing numbers of Southern Baptists and Americans are sympathetic to doing all that we can in government and tax policy to empower parents to make the choices that they believe are best for their children,” said Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. “Education savings accounts would certainly be another step in that direction.”

The ERLC first endorsed the measure in 1997.

President Clinton has already killed the legislation three times and appears likely to do so again. In 1997, he insisted education savings accounts be removed from the budget package. The next year, he vetoed the proposal as a freestanding measure. Last year, he vetoed a tax-relief bill in which ESAs were included.

A two-thirds majority in both houses of Congress is required to override a presidential veto. The Senate vote March 2 fell short of that goal.

Sens. Paul Coverdell, R.-Ga., and Robert Torricelli, D.-N.J., crafted the ESA proposal.

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