Republican presidential candidate Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., wants the federal government to encourage school choice without interfering with state and local governments. To do so, Rubio would create a tax credit for companies that donate to nonprofits that give K-12 tuition scholarships to poor students.

"American companies, in lieu of a portion of their taxes being paid to the government, would pay it into a local not-for-profit scholarship organization that gives scholarships to low-income families to send their children to a private school of their choice," Rubio said in an interview with the 74's Founder Campbell Brown Wednesday. "I'm not saying it's a silver bullet that's going to solve everything. But it will provide yet one more avenue by which low-income parents can have access to a better education than the one their kids are getting now."

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Such a program would create a federal incentive for school choice, without directly interfering in the affairs of state and local governments and their education budgets. Not interfering in those affairs is a priority for Rubio, who said he opposes using federal dollars to incentivize states to implement school choice programs.

"The problem with that is that federal dollars that start out as incentives become mandates," Rubio said. "The federal government has a long history of sending dollars down as a suggestion and then ultimately becoming a mandate — with not strings attached, chains attached and ropes. I don't want us to have a national school board."

Sixteen states have similar school choice programs, according to the Center for Education Reform. The scholarships given out by the nonprofits can essentially be used as tuition vouchers at private schools. Scholarship tax credits should not be confused with school voucher programs, however, since the tax credits do not directly send taxpayer dollars to private schools.

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