It did not take opponents of school choice long to respond to President George W. Bush’s inclusion of tuition tax credits in the 2003 budget proposal he released on February 4. The tax credits would help defray the cost of private school expenses for parents who wanted to pull their children out of schools the state had identified as failing.
“Tuition tax credits are just another version of vouchers,” said a statement issued by the National Education Association on February 6. “Both the House and Senate by strong bipartisan margins rejected private schools vouchers last year. In states across the nation, voters have repeatedly rejected vouchers. Let’s not waste time pushing proposals that have consistently been rejected.”
That was too much for the Education Leaders Council, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization of practicing education reformers led by former Arizona State Superintendent of Instruction Lisa Graham Keegan. According to an ELC news release, the NEA is laboring under not one but two misconceptions.
“First, tuition tax credits are not just another version of vouchers; second, they do not represent a proposal that has been consistently rejected by the Congress or the voters,” noted the ELC. Even without the Bush proposal, explained the ELC, existing law requires schools failing for at least two years not only to provide public school choice, but also to pay to provide supplemental services for disadvantaged students.
Where the existing law provides aid only to Title I students in failing schools, the Bush proposal would give all students in failing schools an opportunity to attend a better school.
“Further, families who take the tuition tax credit can’t base their decision to remove their child from a particular school on some sort of hunch that their child is in a poor school,” emphasized the ELC. “This is their own public school system telling them that these schools are sub-par.”
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The Washington, DC-based Education Leaders Council publishes The Status Quote Weekly, which brings what the ELC calls “the choicest weekly quote from the education status quo.” Current and back issues are available at the Council’s Web site at www.educationleaders.org