This letter is written in response to last week’s rebuttal of the op-ed, “The Battle for Education: The Haves and the Have-Nots” (Feb. 20)
To the Editor:
I am honored that my op-ed on education funding (Feb. 13) reached and annoyed the Heartland Institute in Illinois, a libertarian think tank funded by special interests like the Charles G. Koch Foundation, Exxon Mobil and Phillip Morris. Spokesman Robert Holland especially defends the awarding of tax credit scholarships to private and sectarian schools, arguing that, “A long string of court decisions has rejected teacher-union arguments that this stream of private money – though never flowing through the state’s coffers -belongs to a government education monopoly.”
Two clauses under Article 3 of our state Constitution strictly forbid tax money to go to private or sectarian schools. However, the Education Improvement Tax Credit and Opportunity Scholarship Tax Credit programs circumvent the law. They allow donors to give to “scholarship organizations” (I call them money laundries) that take their own fee and then distribute the “scholarships” to private schools. Donors then claim as much as 90 percent of their donation in tax write-offs. So, someone could donate $1,000 to a scholarship program and then pay between $750 and $900 less in state taxes.
Up to now, Pennsylvania offers a maximum of $210 million in tax credits. If a new Senate bill passes, that amount could go up to nearly $700 million and counting.
Holland talks about the pittance received by the student. But scholarship amounts can vary, especially for special education. He also argues that public schools save money by not having to educate that student. His logic fails to consider the number of students who go directly to private school. A family with two children can now earn up to $116,000 and still be eligible. And as I said before, there is no accountability for the student’s progress.
Thanks to the South Philly Review for allowing me this rebuttal.
Gloria C. Endres
South Philly Resident