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Tuesday, May 1, 2012

School choice bill only benefits wealthy

Letter to the Editor

Reps. D.J. Bettencourt and Greg Hill recently advocated for passage of HB 1607, a measure that would motivate businesses to provide “scholarships” to subsidize private and religious school tuition costs by making them tax deductible. (April 22: “Choice in education shouldn’t be restricted to the rich.”)

This scheme has at least two serious flaws.

The bill’s authors concede they are “sensitive to church-state separations concerns.” They claim the proposed scholarships would be “entirely privately funded.”

Sure. Private companies would fund them after the state has told them they can deduct the cost from their taxable income.

Who is really funding them? The state – and the taxpayers.

Beyond the constitutional problem, the program would discriminate in favor of the upper middle class and wealthy.

Assume a poor family wants to send a child to private school. They have no spare income after paying the rent and buying food, medical care, etc., each month.

Private school tuition varies, but on average costs more than $7,000 per year to educate a child. Of what practical value would $2,500 be to a poor family? None.

The effect of the proposal would be to siphon children of more wealthy families out of the public school systems and leave those schools with children who, through no fault of their own, tend to be more difficult to educate due to the multitude of factors that make success in school such a problem for poor families.

This would undermine equal access to a quality education that is the crucial prerequisite to a young person’s future success in life.

Laurence Proulx