Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Tuition bill expanded in House, Jindal's bill approved by Senate

In addition to tuition, the House version of the bill that Jindal has been touting will now also include tax breaks for uniforms. At least this will also apply to public school parents, so it does make some sense if you assume that the tax breaks should be made in the first place. (After all, I would argue that public school parents are more in need of some kind of break than those of private school students, since they will tend to be less wealthy than the private school parents, even accounting for the difference caused by tuition.)

The arrogance of this bill is well expressed here:

The tax relief is warranted because the state’s inadequate public schools limit parents’ choices for their children’s education, Rep. Hunter Greene told the House Committee on Ways and Means.

“The (public) schools, at least in my area, haven’t been performing up to par,” said Greene, R-Baton Rouge.
In other words, the public schools aren't working, so let's fund them less and provide incentives for not using them, and therefore not being invested in them as a community. That makes sense. It stinks of the "logic" of NCLB, which rewarded only schools that were doing well or improving, without a way to actually help badly performing schools improve. And I have little sympathy for parents who think their children are too smart for public schools--if that is truly the case, then enroll them in the Gifted & Talented program; as a part of special education, its precise purpose is to ensure that sufficient education is provided for every student.

[Rep. Harold Ritchie] suggested adding a deduction for uniforms and instructional supplies that parents purchase in the public school system.

Greene resisted the change, pointing out that private school parents incur those expenses as well.
So I suppose the parents who can afford private school deserve breaks, but those who can't, don't.
[Greene] said parents with children in private school pay property taxes that keep the public schools running.
...And people who don't use medicare/medicaid pay taxes that keep those programs running, and people whose houses don't get set on fire pay for the fire department, and people who don't drive on every road in their state pay taxes for those roads, and and and.

At least there are some voices (like Ritchie's) to defend public education:
[Steve Monaghan, President of the Louisiana Federation of Teachers] particularly took aim at private school tuition tax deductions, which he argued are a “slippery slope” toward the state subsidizing private and parochial schools at the expense of public schools. [...] “It looks more like a political agenda than it does about sound education policy,” Monaghan said.
Monaghan goes on to make the exact point I mentioned earlier, and he uses a nice analogy for this ridiculous kind of lawmaking:
The legislation will be “more palatable” if tax breaks are kept in for uniforms and other core costs for the parents of public school children, Monaghan said, but that still does not make it good policy.

In reality, Monaghan said, the tuition tax deduction proposals are the same as giving extra tax relief to those who choose to buy books from Barnes & Noble rather than go to a library or to financially assist those who have private gym memberships rather than visit public parks.

Meanwhile, in a Senate committee, they didn't even really bother with something like the uniforms idea, and in fact there was an amendment for an additional tax credit, though that failed. Tom Tate, a lobbyist for the Louisiana Association of Educators, "characterized the tax break as a voucher without accountability standards"--well said. It passed by a huge margin of 9-2.

1 comment:

Country Roads said...

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