School Vouchers

Educational Tax Credits Are Often a Bait-and-Switch

By Stephen Herzenberg, Third and State

A story in Monday's New York Times explores the use of state tax credit programs to pay for "scholarships" for students who attend private schools. The story suggests that many of the students who receive such scholarships already attend private school and are not low-income.

To the extent that this is true, the political marketing of these programs as alternatives (for a select few students) to public schools in distressed communities is a "bait and switch." Educational tax credits actually siphon taxpayer dollars to subsidize private schools, reducing state revenues available for public schools.

Is this how the scholarships to attend private schools work under Pennsylvania's Educational Improvement Tax Credit (EITC) program?

Probably: there is no prohibition on EITC scholarships going to students already attending private schools; middle-class families are eligible to receive scholarships (the income limit for a family of four is $84,000); and there is no evidence that even this income limit is enforced. In fact, Pennsylvania's Act 46 of 2005 prohibits the state from requesting from scholarship organizations any information other than the number and amount of scholarships that they give out. I guess we're just supposed to trust the scholarship organizations to self-enforce the income limit.

Jobs Down, College Tuition Up, School District Taxes Up and Policy Makers Are Focused On What?

A blog post by Mark Price, originally published at Third and State.

Other recent Morning Must Reads from Third and State:

Monday: No Revenue for Public Transportation & Corporations Need Another Tax Loophole for their Jets

Tuesday: Mo Gas, Mo Problems

On Tuesday, the Keystone Research Center published a summary of the employment situation in Pennsylvania. With the release of September's jobs data, which included a loss of just over 15,000 jobs, a picture is emerging of a job market in Pennsylvania that is shrinking. The continued loss of public-sector jobs and relatively slow growth in private-sector jobs is the main source of weakness in the labor market. The bottom line is that although Pennsylvania ranked in the top 10 of states in terms of job growth early in this recovery, the Commonwealth has moved to the bottom 10 in the last five months.

Much of the public-sector job loss is driven by the fact that tax revenue has yet to fully recover from the recession, the end of federal Recovery Act funding, and state lawmakers' unwillingness to raise state revenues which has deepened state budget cuts.

Third and State This Week: Closing Loopholes, a Flawed School Vouchers Plan and More

This week, we blogged about closing tax loopholes on Tax Day, a deeply flawed school vouchers plan in the state Senate, Governor Corbett's claims about property taxes in Texas, and much more.

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT:

Despite Changes, Senate Voucher Plan Deeply Flawed

A blog post from Stephen Herzenberg, originally published on Third and State.

Next week, the Pennsylvania Senate may take up an amended plan to create the largest-in-the nation private school vouchers program.

While Senate Bill 1 was amended last week, the bill remains deeply flawed.

Despite capping part of the cost, the program will be expensive, with costs approaching half a billion dollars within three years.

Don't Know Much About History ...

A blog post from Stephen Herzenberg, originally published on Third and State.

Last week, we released a report at the Keystone Research Center that has me humming an old Sam Cooke song. You probably know it. It goes:

Don't know much about history
Don't know much biology
Don't know much about a science book
Don't know much about the French I took

So why am I humming this oldie but goodie?

Well, because in Pennsylvania, we don’t know much about the 38,000 students who received taxpayer-funded scholarships in 2009-10 to attend private and religious schools under the state’s Educational Improvement Tax Credit (EITC).

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