The Trump administration is considering several different school choice proposals. Catholic education experts prefer tax-credit scholarship programs. “People donate to an organization; they get their tax break; a kid gets a scholarship,” said Sr. Dale McDonald.
School choice has been an increasingly strong movement in education circles, picking up steam especially in the past decade. But not all types of school choice are equal, and some have led to heavy closures in the Catholic school system. While the recently passed 2017 federal budget contained no increased investment in school choice, the 2018 budget blueprint increases by $1.4 billion the amount available for private and public-school choice, eventually reaching an outlay of $20 billion per year.
The budget proposal increases by $168 million charter-school funding and devotes $250 million to a new private-school choice program. The administration has so far not provided any specifics on what types of school choice it will support, but the current assumption by many analysts is that any future school-choice program will be likely either an education savings account or a scholarship tax credit, both of which are often used for private schools.
Father Robert Sirico, president of the Acton Institute, a free-market think tank in Michigan, told the Register that it is unjust to force parents of children in private school to pay school-district taxes on top of their children’s tuition.
“It seems quite obvious that something needs to give in this regard, both on the level of justice, but also on the level of quality, in the services being rendered,” he said. Father Sirico suggested tax-credit scholarships, in which individuals or corporations receive tax credits in exchange for donations to scholarship-granting organizations, and education savings accounts (ESA) as ways to help parents. In an ESA, a family is typically given an amount of public money to draw on for their children’s educational expenses, whether in public school, home school or private school.
Presentation Sister Dale McDonald, public policy director for the National Catholic Educational Association, told the Register that her organization also favors a tax-credit scholarship program.
Sister Dale praised the scholarship tax credit as “neat, clean and simple.”
“People donate to an organization; they get their tax break; a kid gets a scholarship,” she said.
Sister Dale also said that her concern would be that “whatever kind of program is developed, it respects the religious liberty of the school, and respects the autonomy of the school” regarding admissions and standards. She also hopes to see a program that is not just concentrated on low-income families, but also pays attention to middle-class families who might not be able to afford Catholic education.
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