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Letter-to-the-Editor: Response to Op-Ed “The Battle for Education: The Haves and the Have-Nots”

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By: Robert Holland

This letter is written in response to last week’s op-ed, “The Battle for Education: The Haves and the Have-Nots” (Feb. 13)

After delivering a long bill of grievances against charter schools as a source of competition within the public school system, retired public school teacher Gloria C. Endres proceeds to grouse that “too much funding is being diverted to private education.” Her complaint is that tax-credit scholarships “funnel hundreds of millions of education dollars to private schools, while neglecting poorer public school districts, like Philadelphia.”

That preposterous line of reasoning assumes that government schools have an exclusive claim not only on funds earmarked for them in public treasuries but all untaxed money in the private sector. Tax-credit scholarships are a product of benevolent voluntarism. They allow companies or individuals to receive tax credits by making donations to nonprofit organizations that award students need-based private-school scholarships. A long string of state court decisions has rejected teacher-union arguments that this stream of private charity – though never flowing through the state’s coffers – belongs to a government education monopoly.

Pennsylvania’s two tax-credit programs awarded private scholarships with an average annual value of $1,673 to $2,668 over the 2016-18 period. Meanwhile, a federal report released in 2018 showed education revenue per Pennsylvania student (from local, state and federal sources) totaling $16,627. The U.S. average was $12,881. (The statistics were from the 2014-15 school year.) If families can take a modest donation of scholarship aid and exercise private choice, that might well help public schools save money and allocate their resources more efficiently.

Robert Holland is a senior fellow for education policy at the Heartland Institute in Arlington Heights, Illinois. 

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