Trump Education Plan Bad for Public Schools

WHITE HOUSE WEIGHS FEDERAL TAX CREDIT: The Trump administration is considering a first-of-its-kind federal tax credit scholarship program that would channel billions of dollars to working class families to enable their children to attend private schools, including religious schools. The program could be capped at a level as high as $20 billion, sources say. It is considered a more politically palatable option than asking Congress to find or reallocate money to fulfill Trump’s $20 billion campaign promise to expand charter and private school offerings.

Trump Education Plan Bad for Public Schools
Trump Education Plan Bad for Public Schools as Trump and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos (shown here) prepare to give $20 billion to private and parochial schools.

A federal tax credit scholarship program could be part of a larger tax reform bill and pass through the budget reconciliation process, which requires only 51 votes in the Senate. But the proposal already has critics on both sides of the aisle. Public school advocates say such a tax credit is a voucher program in disguise and would divert tax dollars from struggling public schools, while critics on the right worry it would increase the federal role in education and pressure states to standardize state tax credit programs.

Details of how such a program might be structured are not known. But it could resemble the Educational Opportunities Act, legislation first introduced by Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Rep. Todd Rokita (R-Ind.) in 2013. That bill, which failed to pass either chamber, would have created a federal tax credit of up to $4,500 for individuals and up to $100,000 for corporations who make donations to nonprofit “scholarship-granting organizations,” or SGOs. Those organizations would award the funds to low-income students, who could use the money to attend private schools, including those run by religious groups.

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos praised the bill in 2015, when it was reintroduced and she was chair of the school choice advocacy group, American Federation for Children. “There’s no single domestic issue more pressing than fixing our nation’s antiquated education system, and the Educational Opportunities Act will empower parents throughout the country to have access to quality educational options that are otherwise out of reach,” she said.

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