Sponsors reduce cost of school voucher bill | Arkansas Blog

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Sponsors reduce cost of school voucher bill

Posted By on Wed, Mar 1, 2017 at 1:24 PM

click to enlarge Rep. Jim Dotson - BRIAN CHILSON
  • Brian Chilson
  • Rep. Jim Dotson

The school voucher bill to allow people to direct state income tax payments to a fund to pay for private school vouchers is to be amended substantially in part to cut down the potential cost to the state. The amendment was filed late Tuesday.

It's still a bad bill that allows taxpayers to choose where a chunk of their tax money goes. I'd like to send all mine to the Little Rock School District, for example, but I don't have that option.

The bill by Republican Rep. Jim Dotson originally provided for $10 million a year in diversion of state tax money to school vouchers in the first year of the program. The new limit is $6.5 million. It could escalate in subsequent years by as much as 10 percent a year, depending on contributions and outlays.

The scheme allows taxpayers to make contributions to nonprofit organizations that will dole out money for vouchers. Contributors will get a direct tax credit equal to 65 percent of the contribution. Parents can apply for money from the nonprofits to offset costs of private school tuition, online education and other schooling costs. There's no income test for qualification.

The state spends about $6,600 per student in public schools. So the giveaway of tax money is enough to support about 1,000 students. Only about half of income tax dollars go to public schools normally. The rest goes to other services.

More to be known on this, including how it sits with Gov. Asa Hutchinson, who's been an opponent of school vouchers in the past. The changes seem unlikely to sway traditional opponents of vouchers, generally including school districts who'd lose state support and students.

UPDATE: As luck would have it, an article in Georgia, where they are attempting to expand a similar shell game, illustrates many of the things wrong here. The first is accountability. We don't know who gets the money, where they use it and what the results of that transfer of tax money to private schools produces. In Louisiana, it wrecked education for many children who took the money to substandard church schools. Georgia at least caps contributions to the voucher funds for which tax credits are extended. Here, the Waltons could direct zillions to their favorite charity — tearing down public schools. The article indicates that the Arkansas bill closely follows the Georgia legislation — cookie-cutter stuff from the school privatizers, led by the Walton billionaires. In Georgia, the majority of beneficiaries are higher income families. No reason to believe the same won't happen here. It will favor urban areas, with more private schools. See: Little Rock, long in the cross-hairs of the Waltons for destruction of the public school system.

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