by Brian Washington
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Our new Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos has been called a “four-star general in the privatization movement.” One of the most destructive weapons this general has in her arsenal to use against public schools is voucher schemes.
As education activists know, vouchers divert taxpayer dollars away from public schools—starving them of the critical funding needed for students to thrive—only to use these funds to subsidize private and/or religious schools.
However, voucher proponents, like DeVos and politicians found in your state, almost never call them vouchers. Instead, they attempt to mislead parents, taxpayers, and voters by re-branding these plots to drain and defund public education with some pleasant-sounding, flowery name plucked from the school-choice lexicon.
As a service to pro-public education advocates everywhere, Education Votes is going to highlight our top five names used by politicians to sell voucher schemes to the public.
- Opportunity Scholarships: A voucher that can be used for a wide range of items connected to attending a private and/or religious school, including tuition, transportation, equipment, and other expenses.
- Parental Choice Scholarships: Functions like opportunity scholarships. The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), which recently announced plans to up its game promoting vouchers, is peddling its own model of this type of voucher legislation.
- Tuition Tax Credits: Provides a state or federal income tax credit for private and/or religious school expenses, including tuition. In some states, instead of a tax credit, it’s a tax deduction.
- Education Savings Accounts: An investment account, similar to a Roth IRA, where money for private-school expenses can be saved. ESAs provide tax-free earned interest, as long as it’s used for tuition and other education-related expenses. Education savings accounts generally benefit families who can already afford to send their kids to private school.
- Charitable Tax Credit: Allows individuals and businesses to take a tax credit for donating to private, non-profit organizations that provide private school vouchers. It operates like a tuition tax credit, but, in this case, the tax credit shifts to the individual or businesses making the donation.
Whether it’s so-called opportunity scholarships, tuition tax credits/deductions, or education savings accounts, the money to cover all of these voucher programs has to come from somewhere, and it’s usually taken away from the vast majority of students attending our public schools. Therefore, if you see any of these names or titles, or, for that matter, any education legislation with the words “choice,” “opportunity scholarships”, or “tax credit” in the title, it’s time to warn the members of your community that the budget for their neighborhood public school is in danger of being hijacked.