Thursday, January 23, 2020
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DeVos pushes Freedom Scholarship, a tax credit

For the record, US Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and Trump aide Kellyanne Conway spoke today at the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think-tank in the nation’s capital, pushing a tax credit program known as the Freedom Scholarships, a $5 billion expenditure bill propped up in the Senate by Ted Cruz, a Republican from Texas, that has virtually no chance of passing in the Democratic-controlled House, especially when an impeachment inquiry is in full swing.

Ms DeVos told the institute that she couldn’t understand why true conservatives were shying away from the plan.

“I remain dumbfounded that some conservatives who masquerade as education reformers criticize this proposal,” US News & World Report quoted her as saying. “Who would have thought that Ted Cruz or I would have been accused of trying to grow the federal government?”

If it ever sees the light, the tax credit could help families cover the cost of attending a private or public K-12 school of their choice or of taking online classes, getting some tutoring, participating in after-school programs, and so on. It would provide a tax credit to individuals and businesses that contribute taxable income to an organization that provides scholarships that are set aside mostly for low-income students.


Even the conservative think tank, The Heritage Foundation, has come out in opposition to the proposal. Ms DeVos’s bewilderment as to why so many people on both sides of the political aisle opposed the plan gives me an opportunity, though, to explain a little something about “school choice” that may have escaped the education secretary.

I’m personally opposed to the proposal because tax credits would go to families or organizations that can already afford to support scholarships in the first place, not to low-income households. Sure, some of those students might benefit from the scholarships those wealthy people and organizations fund, if they can get them, but programs like this underscore a big fallacy about school choice:

The fallacy: School choice favors low-income households. It does not. Tax credit legislation requires that people or organizations put out the money in the first place. One of my best low-income friends can’t even put away $500 to buy a cheap, broken-down car. There’s no way she could ever afford to pay private school tuition and even think about this tax credit. And that presumes the school of her choice won’t abandon her daughter in the middle of the year.

Read in the Arizona Republic: More than 100 Arizona charter schools could close because of financial issues, by Craig Harris.

Also, in Forbes: The Promises Charter Schools Don’t Make, by Peter Greene.

So her daughter will continue to attend the free public school she now attends and build an education trajectory that will reward her for what she puts into it, with her family’s help.

Paul Katula is the executive editor of the Voxitatis Research Foundation, which publishes this blog. For more information, see the About page.

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