Taxes, Education, and Religion
by Anthony Stasi
Dec 08, 2011 | 6142 views | 0 0 comments | 126 126 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Last week, I attended a conference on the issue of the tuition tax credit, and how religious groups – namely Catholic advocates – felt about it. Although many parents, Catholic and otherwise, support this idea, there are many social activist Catholics who dare never to endorse certain policies that would appear as though they were anti-union.

The tuition tax credit is not necessarily one of those issues that worry unions the way “right to work” laws might, but it is still something that has not been well articulated.

The speakers at this symposium wanted to stress that tuition tax credits are not vouchers covered in sheep’s clothing. The tax credits, they explained, mean that funding would not go to a private school, but to the parents of the children. That may still sound uncomfortable for constitutional purists, but there was more to this idea than policy wonks like me had discussed previously.

Frank Butler, president of Foundations and Donors Interested in Catholic Activities (FADICA), explained that the amount of revenue a city saves by not having to educate added children outweighs the loss of tax revenue. If this can save a city money, that might make this idea worth a look.

Here is the other interesting point about the tuition tax credit: it does not simply involve parents sending their kids to private schools and then skirting the tax bill to public schools. Some plans would allow all citizens (with or without children) to donate money to a private or religious based educational institution. This would be a tax-deductible donation. This then sets up scholarship programs at schools for which under-privileged children can apply. This would help the private schools, and it would free up space in public schools.

A possible plan could look like this:

If a donation of $100 goes to a private school scholarship fund, the city may extract 25 percent ($25) into a separate scholarship fund for successful public school teachers. If people make tax-deductible donations totaling $1 million in one year, $250,000 of that goes toward rewarding public school teachers and $750,000 goes toward the scholarships at private schools.

The result could be better paid public school teachers with fewer students to manage, while saving other educational institutions. It should add up constitutionally because these are donations that become scholarships, which are paid to the families of the children, not religious institutions.

This symposium was not some anti-union privatization fest. These were basically socially liberal, religious-based educators who point out that while our public schools are over-crowded, there are an estimated 700,000 empty seats in Catholic schools alone.

In fairness, the elected officials who have endorsed these ideas the most are often the more conservative types, and not likely to be friendly to unions. But it does not have to be that way. This is an idea that can be reworked to benefit public employees and it can take some of the burden off of our over-taxed school system.

Right now, Mayor Dave Bing of Detroit is trying to maintain control over a city that cannot reach solvency. He is trying to work out deals at the 11th hour with public sector unions…unions that the mayor supports. These are the kinds of ideas that deserve a chance, at least in a city like Detroit where there is no place to go but up.

Romney’s Choice

Mitt Romney’s campaign has tapped Councilman Eric Ulrich of Queens to head his operation in New York City, and that is good news for Ulrich.

There may be some rumblings from party gray beards that they were not tapped for their wisdom and leadership, but this was a good choice. Ulrich has what many GOP professionals in the city do not have: experience winning elections.

Ulrich is not a local political club donut distributor. Winning the New York City vote will not likely be a priority in the Romney camp, not with battles in Michigan, Florida, and Colorado to fight, but calling on Ulrich means that there is a national buzz about a young member of this party that has not happened in a while.

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