Larry Grooms R-Berkeley, and aficionado of odd animals, sponsored another school choice bill in the senate yesterday. "10 years of patience is wearing thin" said Grooms. Here's what his bill offers. $4000 tax deduction for tuition and other costs associated with sending your child to a private school. $2000 tax break if they're home schooled. $1000 tax deduction if you choose to send your child to a public school in another district. To limit how much revenue this will cost the state, the tax credit is available on a first come first served bases up to 25 million per year. There's an additional 14 million set aside in tax breaks. Those would go to students with disabilities who would be eligible for up to 10 grand in scholarships and low income students could earn up to $5000 in scholarships.
I love school choice, but not this bill for the simple reason that parents should not receive tax breaks. Understanding that the people who are invested in public education are fighting to keep as much public money flowing in to the system as possible, when you tell them you are taking 39 million out, they see danger. And they will fight very hard. Part of their concern is legit. School choice benefits people who can afford to drive their kids to better school districts. Following the law of capitalism, those schools will flourish while their weaker competition starves. The poorer schools will get poorer while the richer schools will get richer. Most kids in the poor school district will be left behind because their parents can't get them out. This isn't a straight capitalism game either where a new business can jump in to the poor school district and take over like another business can. That's because all of the business is pre assigned to the public school. A private school will get no business because their customers don't have any money. You can give them a million dollar tax credit and it wouldn't make a bit of difference if they don't pay taxes.
School choice is a good thing because the schools that teach kids the best will thrive and more of our kids will be better prepared for the future. But life isn't fair. All kids can't go to the best schools. By definition most won't go to the best. By comparison our worst school today is far superior to the best school of 100 years ago.
Those whose parents have more money will have more opportunity. And kids who have an unusual gifting but little means will usually get scholarships to private schools. School choice works for the parents who can't afford a house in the good school district but can afford to have someone take their kid to school in the good school district. The good school district should be rewarded with more tax money because they will be gaining students, but it really shouldn't be more than a few percent. By throwing in tax breaks you're making the bill unpassable and hurting the thousands of kids who would benefit from school choice.
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