Mar 10, 2019

Why Betsy DeVos' private school tax credit may not be the answer

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos proposed a tax credit last month for people and businesses who donate money for children to attend private schools, a move that has stirred up the school choice debate among politicians and education analysts.

The big picture: Despite the encouragement for more growth through scholarships, New York City charter schools, which are funded by local taxes, grants and donations, reached their cap last week. If the state doesn’t lift the cap, charter growth will most likely end. Resources have begun to drain while enrollment for charter schools across the country has grown exponentially, causing teachers from charter schools to walk out this year for the first time ever.

What they're saying:

  • Andy Rotherham, founder of nonprofit consulting firm Bellwether Education Partners, told Axios: "The Trump administration has had its chances to put forth initiatives of school choice that could force some hard conversations, and it’s highly unlikely the tax incentive introduced was the one. ... The administration doesn’t seem to be able to stay on message about anything for very long. Democrats control the House. It’s hard to see them bringing this up for a vote."
  • House Education Committee chairman Rep. Bobby Scott (D-Va.) said on NPR: "If you’re going to spend money in education, there are better ways of spending it than a scholarship program that’s totally undefined. You have to consider any proposal that’s made, but I think it's fair to say I’m skeptical."
  • American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten said at an Axios event: "You cannot think that you can privatize or outsource this. You have this huge available asset called public education that really wants to align with business and industry both in terms of K-12 and in terms of community colleges."
  • Jim Blew, the Education Department's assistant secretary for policy and development, said on NPR: "Because it is a tax credit, the Fed doesn’t need to get involved with new mandates, new regulations. The voluntary component makes sure money is not diverted from public schools and teachers."

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