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June 25, 2013 3:32 PM The Next Stage in Public School Privatization: Huge Tax Credits

By Daniel Luzer

TaxCredits

Past efforts of conservative groups to privatize elementary and secondary education, like vouchers, haven’t really taken off. But now Wisconsin has a crafty new plan: just give rich people great big tax credits for sending their kids to private school.

According to this piece at Governing:

Last week, the Wisconsin legislature’s Joint Finance Committee approved new tax deductions for families that put their kids in private school as part of its 2013-2015 budget. The plan allows for families to deduct up to $4,000 for every student in kindergarten through eighth grade and up to $10,000 for every high school student. With nearly 100,000 Wisconsin students enrolled in private school, according to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, the deductions are expected to cost the state $30 million annually.
The plan must now be approved by both chambers and Gov. Scott Walker. Proponents presented the proposal as a victory for the school choice movement.

It sure would be a big victory for the public school killers.

Other states already offer some forms of tax credits for private schools, but they’re much more limited. North Carolina lets families deduct $6,000 to send kids to private school, but the policy only applies to special needs students. Alabama lets a family deduct $3,500 to pay for private schools, but only if the local public school is labeled failing under the No Child Left Behind act. Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Louisiana and Minnesota give families tax credits for enrolling their children in any private schools, but the credits are generally under $500.

The Wisconsin plan is much more permissive, however, as it allows parents to take a great big whopping tax dedication to remove their children from public school, no matter what the public school is like, and no matter what their children are achieving.

All of this looks suspiciously like an attempt to give a great big present to Wisconsin’s affluent families.

Median tuition for private day schools in the United States is about $18,000. And $10,000, after all, will buy a whole lot of private school.

But this only helps rich people. The Wisconsin working class would in general not be helped at all by a $10,000 tax break, because they pay nothing like $10,000 in taxes every year. It would, however, remove $30 million annually from the annual state budget. Now I wonder where Wisconsin will cut funding to make up for that gap.

Right, probably support for public schools. [Image via]

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer