Politico - The Trump administration is considering a first-of-its-kind federal tax credit scholarship program that would channel billions of dollars to families from working-class households to enable their children to attend private schools, including religious schools.
The federal tax credit proposal is one of several ideas under review by the White House to fulfill Donald Trump’s campaign promise to promote the expansion of charter schools and vouchers that would allow families of low income to use public money for private school tuition, sources tell POLITICO. During a recent meeting with parents and teachers at the White House, Trump said he wants “every single disadvantaged child in America, no matter what their background or where they live, to have a choice about where they go to school.”
But the federal tax credit proposal already has critics on the left and right. Public school advocates say such a tax credit is a voucher program in disguise and would divert tax dollars from struggling public schools.
“The end result is the same — federal tax dollars going to private schools,” said Sasha Pudelski, assistant director for policy and advocacy at AASA, The School Superintendents Association, who called the program “a backdoor voucher.”
“It’s just done through a more complex and less direct mechanism,” she said.
While a tax credit may be more politically palatable than asking Congress to find or reallocate money to fulfill Trump’s $20 billion promise to expand charter and private school options, “just because it’s more palatable, doesn’t mean it tastes good,” said Noelle Ellerson Ng, the group’s associate executive director.
Critics on the right, meanwhile, worry such a plan would increase the federal role in education and pressure states to standardize state tax credit programs, many of which now allow nonprofit groups to prioritize a particular type of school, such as those of particular religious denominations, for instance.
A federal tax credit scholarship program could be part of a larger tax reform bill and pass through the budget reconciliation process with only 51 votes in the Senate. Delays in repealing Obamacare, however, are complicating Republican plans to push tax reform through Congress.
The White House did not respond to questions on the tax credit proposal or its status by deadline. Details of how the Trump administration might structure the plan remain unknown. But sources close to the discussions who were not authorized to speak publicly say the program might be capped at a level as high as $20 billion, and resemble legislation first introduced by Republicans Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida and Rep. Todd Rokita of Indiana in 2013, called the Educational Opportunities Act.