Read this (i.e., unless you’re the Hulk – saw The Avengers last weekend, and you don’t want Bruce Banner getting all riled up).
It’s more top-notch muckraking from the New York Times, this time exposing clear abuse of a state-level tax education credit. Instead of supporting poor kids whose families want to send them to private schools, the credit basically becomes a voucher that more affluent families are using to pay for their kids’ private education.
The credit was allegedly set up to provide a dollar-for-dollar tax credit for those who wanted to contribute to a state scholarship fund so poor families could leave failing public schools and face a similar choice set to that of wealthier families. But, in fact, the legislation was intentionally crafted to enable parents whose kids already attended private school to keep the credit for themselves.
Since the tax credit goes only to families with kids in public school, in one part of the ruse in Georgia, a kid going to private school enrolls, but doesn’t attend, public school. The law was strategically written to differentiate between enrolling and attending:
The idea, based on a technical interpretation of the word “enroll,” was promoted by State Representative David Casas, a Republican and co-sponsor of the scholarship legislation in Georgia. In meetings with parents, he had explained that the bill’s wording was intentional — using the word “enrolled” rather than “attending” — to enable the scholarships’ use by students already in private schools.
Parents questioned the idea. “Aren’t people going to say that’s a scam?” asked one father during a presentation by Mr. Casas that was posted on YouTube. “ ‘You’ve been going here for nine years. Now you’re enrolling in public school? You’re enrolled in two schools?’ ”
Mr. Casas, the president of a seminary, assured him it was not a scam. “Feel fine about it,” Mr. Casas said.
As you’d suspect if you’re at all familiar with horrible ideas like this at the state level, ALEC is a “big proponent” and this virus is spreading. There are now such programs operating in eight states across the country at a cost of $350 million to state coffers. They are paying for students to go to religious schools and for football scholarships.
This is all very bad, but let me end this post on a truly high note. From the NYT piece:
Johnathan Arnold, headmaster of Covenant Christian Academy in Cumming, Ga., said he viewed using the program to discount tuition for existing students as unethical.
“We, as a Christian school, felt that wasn’t the right approach,” he said. “You’re giving money out of the goodness of your heart with the intent to receive nothing in return. When you give it for the purpose of getting it back or actually make money on that, to me that doesn’t qualify for the spirit of the law.”
Headmaster Arnold, you are truly a great American.
Cross-posted from Jaredbernsteinblog.com
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Jared Bernstein is a senior fellow at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. From 2009 to 2011, he was the Chief Economist and Economic Adviser to Vice President Joe Biden, executive director of the White House Task Force on the Middle Class, and a member of President Obama’s economic team.