A coalition of religious schools will ask state lawmakers to nearly double a popular Iowa tax credit that allows taxpayers to divert a large chunk of their tax bills directly to private schools.

 Contributors to so-called school tuition organizations get a 65-percent credit on their income tax bills, and also get a federal tax break. The school tuition groups then give out tuition grants to families. Trish Wilger with the Iowa Alliance for Choice in Education says the tax credit has broad bipartisan support.

“Traditionally in other states its more of a partisan issue and the teachers union and groups like that oppose it, but we’ve not had that experience year in Iowa ,” Wilger says. Former Governor Tom Vilsack initially vetoed the credit in 2004 because he said it diverts tax dollars away from public schools, but two years later he approved it as part of a compromise over teacher salaries.

Wilger doesn’t know how the change would be received overall. ”With it being a bipartisan environment here of support we don’t anticipate running into that, but as you say it is a major increase so things could change in that regard,” Wilger says.

The school choice group also wants to raise the cap on the credit from $8.75-million to $15 million, and expand its use by corporations. The credit will be up for review this year as part of a multiyear examination of all state tax credits.

Governor Branstad has been wholehearted in his support. He says he personally claimed the credit for a contribution to his local school tuition group.