« The Efficiency Index | Main | Beware of School Reconstitution »

Tax-Credit Scholarships=Trojan Horse

When the U.S. Supreme Court dismissed a lawsuit against Arizona's tax-credit scholarship program in Arizona Christian School Tuition Organization v. Winn in 2011, it set the stage for similar strategies in other states. The latest example is Florida, where private-school scholarships are financed entirely by charitable contributions, which are then offset by tax credits ("Florida's School Choice Showdown," The Wall Street Journal, Sept. 13).

The scholarships are available only for students who qualify for federal free or reduced school lunches.  So far, about 70 percent of these students are minorities.  A teachers' union lawsuit argues that the program's growth cuts into the $6,944 in state funding that each student would get by attending public school. I'm not a lawyer, but I doubt the union will prevail because of the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Zelman v. Simmons-Harris, which upheld the use of vouchers as long as they went directly to parents to use as they saw fit.

I support parental choice, but as I've written often before there will always be students whose parents are not involved enough in their education to take advantage of the options open to them ("What Applying to Charter Schools Showed Me About Inequality," The Atlantic, Mar 20). Perhaps that's why voters have consistently rejected vouchers or their variants by substantial margins in 27 state-wide referendums. Their reasons may vary, but it is clear that voters are not yet ready to give up on traditional public schools.

That's why the ultimate fate of tax-credit scholarships is still in doubt.  I see them as an end-run around the will of the people, although I have to give their creators high marks for creativity. 

Notice: We recently upgraded our comments. (Learn more here.) If you are logged in as a subscriber or registered user and already have a Display Name on edweek.org, you can post comments. If you do not already have a Display Name, please create one here.
Ground Rules for Posting
We encourage lively debate, but please be respectful of others. Profanity and personal attacks are prohibited. By commenting, you are agreeing to abide by our user agreement.
All comments are public.


Most Viewed on Education Week



Recent Comments