Claims against tax-credit scholarships fall flat

In a Fulton County courtroom this morning, some lawyers will try to explain why a group of children — many of them racial minorities, the vast majority of them from low- and middle-income families — should be taken out of good schools and sent back to bad schools.

That’s not exactly how these lawyers will put it, of course. But that’s the practical meaning of what their clients seek.

These lawyers and their clients want a judge to outlaw a program that allows kids to leave low-achieving or violent public schools and instead attend private schools. All at a fraction of the cost to taxpayers of keeping them in those public schools.

The arguments put forth to overturn Georgia’s tuition tax-credit scholarship program will focus on a lot of things. None of those things will have anything to do with ensuring the children who benefit from that program receive a quality education.

The arguments will be about whether Georgia law precludes taxpayer money from being spent for religious purposes. Spoiler alert: It does — but the U.S. Supreme Court has also previously ruled, in a case about the same kind of program in Arizona, that tax credits are not a public expenditure.

New Hampshire’s Supreme Court last month cited that federal ruling in dismissing dismissed a similar challenge to that state’s tax-credit scholarship program. (EDIT: This text has been edited to reflect the fact that, while the New Hampshire court did uphold that state’s tax-credit scholarship program, it did not cite the U.S. Supreme Court ruling.) It is hard to see why Georgia courts should reach a different conclusion.

The arguments will also be about whether Georgia’s program deprives our state’s students of critical education funding, particularly after years of budget cuts. It will be fascinating to see how they conclude that increasing education spending by 0.4 percent will be a real boost, when sending these children back to public schools would increase their enrollment by 0.8 percent, or twice as much.

The amount of spending on these tax-credit scholarships is publicly reported. In each of the past three years, spending on each public school student in Georgia (about $8,500 over that time, including local dollars) has been more than double the amount of tax credits claimed per scholarship recipient (less than $4,000).

What’s more, starting with 2013 we also have information about the finances of these recipients’ families. Legislators mandated this information be reported amid allegations the money was simply going to a bunch of rich kids.

Those allegations turned out to be false: More than three-quarters of scholarship kids in 2013 come from families whose adjusted gross income is $62,201 or less. Almost half of the families had an AGI of less than $30,000.

Like other school-choice programs in Georgia, demand for these scholarships and the tax credits that fund them far exceeds their supply. Perhaps the only thing that outstrips demand for these programs is the determination of education status-quoists to shut them down.

They’re welcome to keep hiring lawyers to make their arguments. But that doesn’t mean judges ought to give them any credence.

Reader Comments 0

129 comments
Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

If your pending comments are merely regurgitations of what you've already posted on this topic, with some out-of-context quotations of what I wrote thrown in for good measure, they're not going to be approved.

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

That goes double for anyone asking me to respond to something I've already responded to.

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

No Headley, I already answered your question earlier: The story to which you refer was written before the last revision of the law, which made changes to address precisely the issues you cite. Not only have I pointed that out, but I've also posted the portions of the law that deal with the issues you cite.

So no, I don't see a need to have this entire back and forth again when you simply ignored it the first time.

proudparent01
proudparent01

So the private schools get to pick and choose which students they give scholarships to while public schools educate every child that walks in the door. Private schools have no requirement to teach students who are English Learners or special needs. Is there any reason to believe that if public schools were offered the same ability to pick and choose students, they wouldn't be able to be as successful with their students. 


Sure, we will all feel a little better when the religious schools reach out to a few hand selected students so they can say that they are doing something for the poor when in reality most of their students are wealthy, and they will turn away the vast majority of students including the disabled. 


Conservatives can feel better because private schools that have very few of the challenges of our urban public schools can be successful with a chosen handful of students. 


Vouchers will only take a few of the best and brightest students out of our public schools while not solving the real problems that cause educational issues in our inner cities. 

Hedley_Lammar
Hedley_Lammar

@proudparent01 Correct


And the truth is they DON'T end up with the special needs kids or English Learners. 


You put it beautifully.



Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@HeadleyLamar @proudparent01 No, "the truth" is you have no evidence whatsoever to back up your statement. In fact, the only "voucher" that exists in this state is restricted to special-needs kids. 

MHSmith
MHSmith

@Kyle_Wingfield @HeadleyLamar @proudparent01 

EXACTLY!


Thank you for pointing out Headly's "serial exaggeration"


If we did have vouchers as I pointed out FACTUALLY if vouchers were available to one person they would have to be made available to everyone

Furthermore I been reading in articles of 65% Hispanic support for school choice and the use of vouchers.


Helping Students or Harming Schools?


http://www.ascd.org/publications/newsletters/policy-priorities/jan01/num24/toc.aspx


proudparent01
proudparent01

@Kyle_Wingfield @HeadleyLamar @proudparent01


Yes, currently the current vouchers are for special needs kids at special needs only schools. These appear to work, but very few students receive these vouchers. 


You are advocating expanding these to other schools. While the vouchers would be open to all kids, the typical private school will get to pick which students are enrolled. The private school can say, we don't have services for a student who can't use his hands for writing so that student can't come to our school. The private school can receive a 1000 requests for enrollment and pick whomever they want. 


You are telling me that I don't have evidence. Please show me a private school that doesn't get to choose which students enter and are removed from their schools. Private schools DO choose their students. This is a fact. 


Like I said, vouchers are a feel good move, not a solution

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@proudparent01 Actually, I was telling Headley he didn't have evidence, but I neglected to take your name out of my response.

As for private schools choosing their students: Yes, that happens. You know what also happens? When people know that access to private schools will be expanded, they open new private schools that by definition will accept students who aren't currently attending private schools. This has happened here already with charter schools and with schools that accept special-needs kids, and there's no reason to think it wouldn't happen with a more general school-choice measure.

proudparent01
proudparent01

@Kyle_Wingfield @proudparent01


I would argue then that the solution isn't public or private, it comes down to giving schools the ability to choose students. Let public schools choose their students like private schools do and they will be just as successful. The only problem is that they won't be public schools anymore and therein lies the rub. 

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@proudparent01 That's funny, I see it the exact opposite way. Let students choose their schools, and maybe public schools will do what it takes to be just as successful as private schools.

It's also odd how critics of school choice are so focused on the institution rather than the child. If every single child in Georgia got a good education from a private school, would that really bother you?

proudparent01
proudparent01

@Kyle_Wingfield @proudparent01


OK, let every child choose a private school then. Private schools should open their doors to ALL students ALL the time. We shouldn't create a system for solving education and then limit the students who have access. I think our education system needs a revolution, but you can't have a revolution if the doors to some kids are closed. 

Mr_B
Mr_B

Suggestion: Instead of coming up with convoluted tax packages to support unaccountable private schools (and for-profit educational racketeers,) why don't we simply demand top-quality education provided by the locally accountable school systems to every child in the state? 


Possibly because it's much cheaper for us to make pious comments about the ultimate importance of an educated populace than to actually make it possible?

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@Mr_B Yes, let's "simply demand" it! No one ever thought of that before!

FIGMO2
FIGMO2

@Mr_B why don't we simply demand top-quality education provided by the locally accountable school systems to every child in the state?

That didn't work out too well here in Clayton County. We couldn't even recall members of the school board. I was present at BoE meetings and witnessed parents begging certain board members to resign. One board members response?

"Find me another job and I will."

MHSmith
MHSmith

Bill Clinton: KIPP charter schools have “solved the No. 1 challenge in American education”

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Former President Bill Clinton praised charter schools at the KIPP Summit in Orlando last week, singling out the KIPP chain for success with high-poverty students and because it has “proved that you can replicate excellence.”

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“I wish there were 10 times or 100 times as many KIPP schools because you have proved that you have solved the No. 1 challenge in American education,” Clinton said. “As a laboratory of democracy, you have proved that you can replicate excellence.”

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Clinton, an early supporter of charter schools, noted there were about 2,000 nationwide when he left office in 2001.

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“Now there are nearly 6,000,” he said. “But I wish there were 12 .. 18 … 24 … 30,000. I wish there were more. And the main reason I wish there were more is you.”

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Clinton pointed to the high rate of low-income kids in KIPP schools, and singled out the success of the KIPP Delta schools in his home state of Arkansas.

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“Our children are not poor. They are rich in their potential,” he also said. “And KIPP has proven it.”

http://www.redefinedonline.org/2012/08/bill-clinton-kipp-charter-schools-have-solved-the-no-1-challenge-in-american-education/

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

@MHSmith Bill Clinton needs his head examined.


Of course, where did Amy go to school?

Mr_B
Mr_B

"n a Fulton County courtroom this morning, some lawyers will try to explain why a group of children — many of them racial minorities, the vast majority of them from low- and middle-income families — should be taken out of good schools and sent back to bad schools."


Kyle, in about another five or six weeks, my ninth grade student in an underfunded, rural school will be able to recognize that statement as both a false dichotomy and a strawman argument.


False dichotomy because there is no intrinsic reason that public schools cannot perform at superior levels, if, as a society we are willing to support them;


Strawman, in that no one is forcing the private schools to remove these students. They are perfectly free to offer whatever aid packages they feel are justified. There is no reason for pubic school kids to foot the bill so a handfull can drop out of the system.

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@Mr_B The schools in question are not merely "public schools" in some general sense. They are specific schools to which these children would be assigned. And you're the one who introduced the notion of "forced"; my statement is simply reflecting the reality of what would happen if these scholarships were ended.

MHSmith
MHSmith

PBS ~ FRONTLINE

The Case for Vouchers 

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Paul E. Peterson

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Why are vouchers an important idea? 

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...We've studied vouchers: whether or not they seem to help kids, and whether or not families like them and what it's like to go to school if you do have a voucher. And we find that the low-income families who participated in our studies tell us that the discipline is much better. There's less fighting. There's less cheating. There's less racial conflict. There's more tolerance for children from other backgrounds. We find that the classes are smaller, that the students say they like their teachers better. There are just a lot of good reports coming back from parents. Now, when inner city, low-income families tell me they're a lot happier if they have a choice as to where their child is going to go to school, I think it's time for the rest of us to sit up and listen....

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The argument against vouchers, one of the many arguments, is that voucher programs are taking money away from public schools and some would argue, hurting schools, financially, that are the least able to be hurt. 

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Actually, the public schools have more money per pupil after a voucher program than before a voucher program for the simple reason that the money that follows the student is state money. And all the local money stays with the local school district. So they've got all the local school money that they would have had anyhow, but they have fewer kids. So they got more money for less kids. That means more money per pupil. So the public schools are benefiting. They can have more money to spend to educate those kids that they have still at their schools.... 

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 Paul E. Peterson is the Henry Lee Shattuck Professor of Government, Director of the Program on Education Policy and Governance (PEPG), and Director of the Center for American Political Studies at Harvard University. He is the author of Learning from School Choice and is an advocate of experimenting with voucher programs.

 http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/vouchers/choice/provouchers.html

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All the complaints the liberals progressives have ever made - or dang near it -  against public funding of school choice, answered and refuted.

 

MHSmith
MHSmith

STRAKER


Your opinion, Errr, um, huh, but, but, hmm, is lacking substance. 

The Liberal Progressive Agenda in the quote I posted, has changed very little since  Woodrow Wilson - believe it or not.


The denial of public funding for school choice is proof.

MHSmith
MHSmith

Jean Anyon Dies at 72; Wrote ‘Ghetto Schooling’

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 “If I had a gun I’d kill you,” the teacher said. “You’re all hoodlums.” 

That remark, made by a white teacher to a class of black and Hispanic fifth graders in Newark, was, for Jean Anyon, a window onto the often inhospitable landscape where education, economics, race and class converge. 

Professor Anyon, who died on Sept. 7 at 72, was one of the first people to study that landscape in detail — and among the first to assert that without accompanying social reforms like job creation, antipoverty initiatives and urban renewal, the problems of education in urban, poor areas would never be surmounted. 

“The structural basis for failure in inner-city schools is political, economic and cultural, and must be changed before meaningful school improvement projects can be successfully implemented,” she wrote in a 1995 article in the journal Teachers College Record. “Educational reforms cannot compensate for the ravages of society.” 

 http://www.nytimes.com/2013/09/30/education/jean-anyon-dies-at-72-wrote-ghetto-schooling.html?_r=0

MHSmith
MHSmith

Social Class and the Hidden Curriculum of Work

 ~ JEAN ANYON

It's no surprise that schools in wealthy communities are better than those in poor communities, or that they better prepare their students for desirable jobs. It may be shocking, however, to learn how vast the differences in schools are - not so much in resources as in "teaching methods" and "philosophies of education". Jean Anyon observed five elementary schools over the course of a full school year and concluded that fifth-graders of different economic backgrounds are already being prepared to occupy particular rungs on the social ladder. In a sense, some whole schools are on the vocational education track, while others are geared to produce future doctors, lawyers, and business leaders. Anyon's main audience is professional educators, so you may find her style and vocabulary challenging, but, once you've read her descriptions of specific classroom activities, the more analytic parts of the essay should prove easier to understand.

http://cuip.uchicago.edu/~cac/nlu/fnd504/anyon.htm

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

the U.S. Supreme Court has also previously ruled, in a case about the same kind of program in Arizona, that tax credits are not a public expenditure.


However, the money that then funnels into the school IS public money!  


Not to mention that the REST of us have to pull extra because the money has to be made up somewhere!

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@Wascatlady "Not to mention that the REST of us have to pull extra because the money has to be made up somewhere!"

Not if the cost of educating those students is also removed. And before you say "overhead": Keep in mind that the local money is unchanged.

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

@Kyle_Wingfield @Wascatlady Yes, I got that.  But VERY LITTLE STATE income tax money goes into the schools.  Mostly it is local property tax money, I believe.  The feds also add some.


Let's say my state income tax is 6500, and I can write off 5000 of that with a contribution to one of these funds.  That means I am supporting my state on 1500$, hardly my fair share, while a PRIVATE school (and a student) reap the benefit.  Have I done my part for the expenses of this state?  Or will that money have to be made up somehow?  


If I want to give to a private school, fine.  But it should NOT be a dollar for dollar tax write-off.  It should be treated as all charitable donations are.

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@Wascatlady Actually, "very little" of what you said here is true.

1. "VERY LITTLE STATE income tax money goes into the schools" -- Do you really consider $7-8B a year "very little" money? That's what is allocated for k-12 education from the state's budget.

2. "Let's say my state income tax is 6500, and I can write off 5000 of that with a contribution to one of these funds." -- No, let's not say that, because the annual limit is $1,000 for a single filer, $2,500 for a couple. And if you will acknowledge that the total public cost of educating that student exceeds what that student will receive in a tax credit-funded scholarship, then I think you will have to acknowledge there isn't a "fair share" argument here.

LilBarryBailout
LilBarryBailout

Regressive Democrats are long on complaining about giving parents choices in schools and very short on suggesting improvements to public schools (other than the usual money grubbing).

MHSmith
MHSmith

@LilBarryBailout 

They have no desire to change the "SOCIAL STRATIFICATION" of America Woodrow Wilson establish nearly a hundred years. 

They are the true authors of "CLASS" divisions in this country and they intend to keep  their "SOCIAL STRATIFICATION" intact by means of monopolizing the public funding of education solely for their "Social Class System and the Hidden Curriculum of Work."

Ychromosome
Ychromosome

This program is a bad joke. The few minorities who get scholarships through these plans are the equivalent of the GOP's human shields. Anything to further their agenda to kill public schools is allowable. Keep folks stupid and afraid. Plus, there is really no auditing power to ensure the schools are spending the money on scholarships. It's a "trust" system. Schools have been documented as using the money to keep existing students rather than attracting new, needy students. Why not fix public schools and stop this monetary drain?

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@countfive "Plus, there is really no auditing power to ensure the schools are spending the money on scholarships."

Except for the annual audit the law requires of the SSOs.

As for this: "Why not fix public schools and stop this monetary drain?"

As noted in the column, this is a net financial gain to the school districts.

dcdcdc
dcdcdc

Its not about educating kids.  It's about keeping control.  Giving parents of kids who want to learn, but are stuck in failing schools, as way out, is completely against the liberal way.  


They claim its "just for the kids"....but when an actual solution that works is offered up, we find out it's really all about keeping tax money in "public education".  Kids be damxxed.

Don't Tread
Don't Tread

@dcdcdc Absolutely...that's what they want - money and control (i.e. absolute power).

Astropig
Astropig

Big, BIG shout out to Kyle for shooting down all of the misinformation/union talking points about this program and answering with facts and figgers'.

I pity the fool that tries to take these scholarships and this program away from the minority kids that benefit from getting a first class education for less money than the usual cost.

straker
straker

MHSMITH


Err, um, I mean, that is, Woodrow Wilson has not been President for more than EIGHTY YEARS.


Liberal thinking, believe it or not, has made some changes since then.

MHSmith
MHSmith

Why is school choice so threatening to the Progressive agenda ?



 “We want one class of persons to have a liberal education, and we want another class of persons, a very much larger class of necessity in every society, to forgo the privilege of a liberal education and fit themselves to perform specific difficult manual tasks.” 

~ Woodrow Wilson(Progressive)



Government picking the winners and losers.

TheRealJDW
TheRealJDW

School Choice is not an issue...me paying for your kid to go to private school at the epense of public schools...that is the issue.

People are free to choose and pay for whatever they want. They are also free to give tax deductable donations to recognized scholarship charities. They should not be free to direct thier ENTIRE tax payment to one or anything else for that matter.

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@TheRealJDW You realize individual donations to SSOs are capped at $1,000 for a single filer and $2,500 for a couple. Don't you?

Eustis
Eustis

How long, on average, have these private schools been in business?

What does the State propose for those areas that don't have reasonble access to private schools?

Are their curriculums approved by the State?

Are their textboosk on an approved list published by the State?

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@Eustis "How long, on average, have these private schools been in business?"

No idea about the average, but I spoke with one woman who started hers in 2001, several years before the tax credit scholarship was created.

"What does the State propose for those areas that don't have reasonble access to private schools?"

That's a reasonable question. But the lack of private schools in some places isn't a reason to keep kids from attending private schools if they can. (Maybe that wasn't your argument.)

"Are their curriculums approved by the State?"

Um, no, they're private schools.

"Are their textboosk on an approved list published by the State?"

That wouldn't be required, although it may be true in practice in some cases. (Assuming there is such a thing as a state-approved textbook list.)

Eustis
Eustis

@Kyle_Wingfield @Eustis 

Just hoping there isn't a rash of "fly by night" schools opening in order to cash in.

As someone said earlier, the State needs to be working on a solution for all aeas in the State.

Without knowing the curriculum or texts being used how do we know what we paying for? Will those children be college prepared, if tha's their desire?

Hedley_Lammar
Hedley_Lammar

In addition, in a videotape of the same meeting that has since been used at other GASSO meetings, Rep. Casas informs private school parents that as a sponsor of the law he deliberately specified “enroll” instead of “attend” in HB 1133 in order to ensure that tax credit subsidies would support students already in private schools. 


Rep. Casas states:  Some people felt a little bit weird about that; felt it was a little dishonest that they would take their child, enroll them in a public school and not have them actually attend, but all of a sudden they

actually qualify for a scholarship. I’m telling you, we deliberately put the wording in there for that


http://www.southerneducation.org/content/pdf/A_Failed_Experiment_Georgias_Tax_Credit.pdf


Honestly....I don't know how these people sleep at night.

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@HeadleyLamar Once again, we have a reference to an article that predates the last legislation for this program, which was passed to address complaints like this one.

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@HeadleyLamar Georgia code sec. 20-2A-1, with the 2013 update:

"'Eligible student' means a student who is a Georgia resident who, immediately prior to receiving a scholarship or tuition grant under Code Section 20-2A-2 and enrolling in a qualified school or program, was enrolled in and attended for at least six weeks a Georgia secondary or primary public school or who is eligible to enroll in a qualified first grade, kindergarten program, or pre-kindergarten program; provided, however, that if a student is deemed an eligible student pursuant to this paragraph, he or she shall continue to qualify as such until he or she graduates, reaches the age of 20, or returns to a public school, whichever occurs first; and provided, further, that the enrollment and six-week public school attendance requirements shall be waived in the case of a student who, based on the school attendance zone of his or her primary residence, is or would be assigned to a public school that the Office of Student Achievement determines to be a low-performing school, who is the subject of officially documented cases of school based physical violence or student related verbal abuse threatening physical harm, or who was enrolled in a home study program meeting the requirements of subsection (c) of Code Section 20-2-690 for at least one year immediately prior to receiving a scholarship or tuition grant under Code Section 20-2A-2."

No daylight in there for a kid who was already in the private school.

Kyle_Wingfield
Kyle_Wingfield moderator

@HeadleyLamar Also from the 2013 update, this time from code section 48-7-29.16:

"(d) (1) The tax credit shall not be allowed if the taxpayer designates the taxpayer's qualified education expense for the direct benefit of any particular individual, whether or not such individual is a dependent of the taxpayer.

"(2) In soliciting contributions, a student scholarship organization shall not represent, or direct a qualified private school to represent, that, in exchange for contributing to the student scholarship organization, a taxpayer shall receive a scholarship for the direct benefit of any particular individual, whether or not such individual is a dependent of the taxpayer. The status as a student scholarship organization shall be revoked for any such organization which violates this paragraph."