Despite what some may try to tell you . . . Education Freedom Scholarships are privately funded and do not take any money from public schools. #EducationFreedom
That comes from a tweet that Education Secretary Betsy DeVos posted in an attempt to sell the public on the Trump administration’s newest plan to expand alternatives to traditional public schools. And, for the record, it’s not true.
The Trump administration has included in its proposed 2020 budget spending up to $5 billion on tax credits for individuals and groups who donate to help children attend private and religious schools.
The donations, which would receive a 100 percent tax credit, could go for other education-related purposes — all aimed at expanding what DeVos now calls “education freedom” but used to more frequently refer to as “school choice."
The plan, called the Education Freedom Scholarships, has no chance of passing Congress with Democrats in control of the House, and with some Republican opposition.
That hasn’t stopped DeVos from talking and tweeting about it. In the following tweet, she presents a mini flow chart she says shows how the Education Freedom Scholarships would be funded, showing how individuals and organizations could donate to a state-approved organization that can grant scholarships to students.
And she says because these scholarships are privately funded, they “do not take any money from public schools.”
But donors can get a dollar-for-dollar tax credit to donate. That means up to $5 billion of federal taxpayer money will go back to private individuals and groups that donate for scholarships.
That isn’t what many people would call private funding.
Her claim that the scholarships “do not take any money from public schools” is misleading, too.
For one thing, any diminution of federal revenue could affect public school funding. For another, using taxpayer money to help students leave traditional school districts reduces per-pupil funding that districts rely on.
DeVos and like-minded acolytes support what is called “backpack funding.” That’s the notion that the money it costs to educate a student in a traditional public school should go to the private school, home-school education or other program a family chooses. And, the thinking goes, if a student leaves with that funding, the public school does not get hurt, because its costs are reduced.
It doesn’t work that way, however. Districts have fixed costs that can’t easily change when enrollment does. Recent students showed how charter schools, which are publicly funded but privately operated, have taken hundreds of millions of dollars away from the operations of some school systems.
Reflecting most Democratic sentiment on the subject, Rep. Rosa L. DeLauro (D-Conn.), chair of the House Appropriations education subcommittee, has called the scholarship plan a “tax scheme” and an “unregulated, unaccountable” effort to fund private school vouchers.
But that won’t stop DeVos from promoting it. After all, the No. 1 “major initiative for fiscal year 2020” in the Education Department’s proposed budget is “Increase Access to School Choice.”