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Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Issue of the Week: The Private School Swindle

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If you still had any doubt that Republicans were trying to dismantle the state’s public school system—and put the state into debt—the new private school tuition tax credit will make you a believer.

Without public debate or input, the Republicans on the Joint Finance Committee (JFC) approved this $30 million budget provision in the early morning after a marathon budget meeting.

The item would give a tax break worth up to $10,000 to parents who send their kids to a private school. Unlike the voucher school scheme, there’s no income limit on who could claim this tax deduction. Also, because it is a tax deduction, it provides greater benefits to higher-income families that can already afford tuition at, for example, the University School of Milwaukee, where tuition and fees range from $5,365 for a three-morning pre-kindergarten to $22,769 for a high school senior. The University School just happens to be in the district represented by state Sen. Alberta Darling (R-River Hills), the co-chair of the JFC and the nominal author of the omnibus budget package that included this item.

Tamarine Cornelius of the Wisconsin Budget Project noted that this tax break is bigger than the one given to parents of college students, which is capped at $6,543 and reduces state revenue by $25 million annually. The college tuition tax break also includes a family income cap of $100,000 for a married couple, so it’s more likely to benefit lower- and middle-income families who could use the help.

This tax break is just another Republican-led effort to blur the lines between public and private schools, with private schools taking public money but rejecting public oversight and accountability. But it’s even worse than the planned voucher school expansion, which has some family income limits on eligibility. This tax break will do nothing but line the pockets of people who don’t need more money, further separate the haves from the have-nots and erode our public school system at the expense of the rest of the taxpayers.

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