NEWS BLOG (WSAU) I’m fascinated by the debate over school vouchers. Many republicans like them in theory, but in practice they’d prefer the voucher program be in someone else’s district. There are enough Republican lawmakers in the Green Bay area who don’t want vouchers for their schools that the entire plan may not have the votes to be approved.
So there’s an alternative being proposed. Tax credits would offset the tuition that families pay to send their kids to private schools. It would be up to $2,500 for private high schools and $1,500 for private grade schools.
Governor Walker is right to say vouchers and tax credits are not the same. If expanding the voucher program is his ultimate goal, accepting tax credits as an alternative could be like taking half-a-loaf forever. Vouchers might be off the table forever.
Consider the difference: the voucher is given to families up-front. It can be used as cash when presented with a private school’s tuition bill. The tax credit is back-loaded. Families have to spend their own real dollars, and get some of the money back when they file their tax returns. There’s no private school that would accept a student based on an “I’ll pay you when my tax refund arrives” basis. The tax credit helps middle and upper class families who can float the money. It doesn’t help the poor who don’t have the cash for tuition on-hand. And allowing poor students to escape under-performing schools is the number-one goal of school choice.
This illustrates how difficult an issue school choice is. School districts are terrified about a large-scale exodus if students and their families have more options. It’s sad that the response from the school establishment is to try killing the program instead of improving their schools.