Tax bill could be battleground for school choice efforts
- Critics of efforts to incentivize private school choice are applauding Rep. Terri Sewell (D-AL) for introducing legislation that would make it illegal to donate to state-scholarship granting organizations, claim a state tax benefit, and then also mark it as a charitable donation on their federal tax returns, according to Education Week.
- Sewell said it could allow people to "make a profit" on donation credits, and she also expressed concern that public schools in her state were being drained of funds while money was being pumped into private schools via a state-sponsored tax credit — though advocates for such tax credits say they actually save taxpayers money.
- The pushback comes as Republican lawmakers weigh whether to utilize federal tuition tax credits as a means to promote private school enrollment and school choice, and while President Donald Trump's administration has not advocated for such a credit, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has in the past — and it may be more likely if next year's fiscal budget doesn't include Trump's proposed funding for promoting school choice.
The U.S. House of Representatives Appropriations Subcommittee did not include the $1 billion in school choice promotion or the $250 million in funding for private school vouchers that Trump had suggested in his own budget proposal, which leaves an increase in funding for the federal charter school program as the primary legislative rise in support for choice options. Without support in federal funding that many may have assumed would be forthcoming for promoting choice, states may decide to emulate Alabama by using tax credits as incentivization, hoping the federal government will follow suit.
The lack of financial support for vouchers in the House's proposed budget for the coming fiscal year — coupled with incomplete or mixed results of the efficacy of the country's only federal voucher program and a declining support for vouchers among the general public — means private and charter schools may increasingly turn to tax credits as an alternate source of procuring additional funding from state and federal governments. Patricia Weitzel-O’Neill, executive director of the Barbara and Patrick Roche Center for Catholic Education at Boston College, said that tax credits are typically more popular and are easier to pass in state legislatures, with Catholic school administrators and advocates particularly viewing tax credits as a way to stem increased competition from charter schools.