JLF Memo
Feb. 15th, 2011 : - johnlocke.org

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Tuition tax credits now!
By Dr. Terry Stoops

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According to the Alliance for School Choice, just over 123,500 students receive benefits from nine scholarship tax credit programs in seven states. In most of these states, social justice Democrats enthusiastically supported proposed tax credit programs. For these legislators and community activists, the quality of schooling for poor and minority children was much more important than the provider of that education. I suppose some liberals have more courage than others.

Bulletin Board
  • The John Locke Foundation is sponsoring a Citizen's Constitutional Workshop on Saturday, February 19 from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. at the Trinity Free Will Baptist Church Auditorium in La Grange, NC. Historian Dr. Troy Kickler and political science expert Dr. Michael Sanera will discuss "What the Founders and the State Ratification Conventions Can Teach Us Today." The cost is $7.00 per participant, lunch included. Pre-registration is strongly suggested. For more information or to sign up for the event, visit the Events section of the John Locke Foundation website.
  • The North Carolina History Project would like educators and homeschool parents to submit lesson plans suitable for middle and high school courses in North Carolina history. Please provide links to NC History Project encyclopedia articles and other primary and secondary source material, if possible. Go to http://www.northcarolinahistory.org/edu_corner for further information.
  •  Become a member of JLF's Freedom Clubs! We have seven regional clubs covering every part of North Carolina, so there is one near you and your like-minded conservative friends. For more information, visit http://www.johnlocke.org/support.



Last week, a News & Observer editorial railed against House Bill 41: Tax Fairness in Education. Representative Paul Stam's bill would offer a $2,500 refundable tax credit to private and home school families who have a yearly taxable income of less than $100,000 and meet other eligibility requirements.

The editors of the
N&O have a strong attachment to the status quo. (Like nihilism, defending the status quo must be exhausting.) This fixation often translates into complaints about miserly politicians and their failure to "invest" adequately in public schools. Similarly, they contend that tax credits,vouchers, and school choice generally are literal and philosophical divestment in our public school system.

Nevertheless, these kinds of simplistic formulations, as well as the finance metaphors that inform them, lead to historically ignorant claims like "private means parents pay to send their children to schools of their choosing; public means a taxpayer-funded system." Historically, "public" and "private" schooling had little to do with who paid the bill. Nineteenth-century education reformers had a notion of "public" schools, but it had little in common with the present-day meaning on the idea. As historian Michael Katz noted, "[I]n the early republican period, 'public' implied the performance of broad social functions and the service of a large, heterogenous, nonexclusive clientele rather than control and ownership by the community or state." (
Class, Bureaucracy, and Schools: The Illusion of Educational Change in America, p. 23.)

Of course, I do not expect the editors of the
N&O to appreciate, or even acknowledge, the history of topics addressed in their editorials. Perhaps I suffer from the soft bigotry of low expectations. But I would hope that they recognize that "private" means parents, who are also taxpayers, pay twice -- tuition and fees to send their children to schools of their choosing and taxes to send other kids to school. In this way, private and home school parents support two educational systems simultaneously. That is quite a burden on the thousands of middle-class families who make great sacrifices to keep their children in a moderately priced private school.

N&O sound bite is equally troublesome. The editors report, "The principle behind public education in North Carolina is to provide all families with an equal opportunity under the state constitution for a sound basic education." The concept of a "sound basic education" refers to the famous Leandro court decision, which declared that "Every child in N.C. has the constitutional right to an equal opportunity to receive a sound basic education." The court defined a sound basic education as having sufficient skills, abilities, and knowledge to thrive in post-graduate life. Nothing in the definition of a sound basic education specifies how the state should meet the requirement.

Moreover, sound the irony alert when N&O editors write, "And through charter schools, the state already funds a choice within the public education system for those parents who prefer schools that are more experimental in their curricula and teaching methods." Despite long waiting lists and strong demand for charters, the N&O incessantly attacks North Carolina's charter school community, so it is unbelievable to hear them speak about charters in such positive terms. If they had the choice, the parents would have no choices at all.

Of course,
N&O editors acknowledge savings from the tax credit, but, for them, "the net savings wouldn't be so large that it would be worth blurring the lines between public and private schools and encouraging more families to make the switch." In this way, it is not about costs and benefits but some imaginary line between public and private, a line that our pre-kindergarten programs and universities cross regularly by diverting public money to private institutions.


Random Thought

Most people think that Snake Eyes is the coolest member of the G.I. Joe team, but I have always been a Snow Job man.

Facts and Stats

Scholarship Tax Credit Programs in the United States, 2010-11 School Year

Arizona (three programs)
(1) Individual School Tuition, Organization Tax Credit
Enacted: 1997
Students: 27,476
Expenditures: $52,091,718

(2) Corporate School Tuition, Organization Tax Credit
Enacted: 2006
Students: 3,626
Expenditures: $7,881,787

(3) Lexie's Law [Corporate scholarship tax credit program for disabled students and foster students]
Enacted: 2009
Students: 145
Expenditures: $625,335

Corporate Tax Credit Scholarship Program
Enacted: 2001
Students: 32,946
Expenditures: $140,000,000

Georgia Scholarship Tax Credit
Enacted: 2008
Students: 6,125
Expenditures: $24,500,000

Corporate & Individual Scholarship Tax Credit
Enacted: 2009
Students: 219
Expenditures: $435,050

School Tuition, Organization Tax Credit
Enacted: 2006
Students: 10,208
Expenditures: $10,839,257

Educational Improvement Tax Credit
Enacted: 2001
Students: 42,339
Expenditures: $51,800,000

Rhode Island
Corporate Scholarship Tax Credit
Enacted: 2006
Students: 460
Expenditures: $1,254,376

Students: 123,544
Expenditures: $289,427,523

Source: Alliance for School Choice, "Hope for America's Children: School Choice Yearbook 2010-11," February 2011, p. 12.


I would like to invite all readers to submit announcements, as well as their personal insights, anecdotes, concerns, and observations about the state of education in North Carolina. I will publish selected submissions in future editions of the newsletter. Anonymity will be honored. For additional information or to send a submission, email Terry at [email protected].


Education Acronym of the Week

SGO -- Scholarship Granting Organization


Quote of the Week

"A single mother in Newark, working two jobs to keep a roof over her child's head, should have no less of an ability to make the [same] choice [as me]. Her child's life is no less precious than ours. Her child's future is no less promising than ours."
-- New Jersey Governor Chris Christie


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