Secretary DeVos' Proposal of Tax Credits for Private School Donations Drives Leftists Nuts

P. Gardner Goldsmith | March 1, 2019
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The Washington Post’s Laura Meckler reports that Education Secretary Betsy DeVos Thursday began her push in favor of a $5 billion tax credit for contributions to private school scholarships.

And, in doing so, Ms. Meckler offers us a great example of what not to do when writing a supposed “news” piece outside of the editorial section.

She begins thus:

Education Secretary Betsy ­DeVos sought Thursday to jump-start her moribund push for school choice…

We’ll overlook the darkly descriptive “moribund”, because Secretary DeVos’s hope to expand school choice actually is facing powerful opposition, but one might be curious about how Ms. Meckler knows what alternative scheme Betsy DeVos “sought” to promote by pushing the tax credit idea.

It’s clear that the only thing a “reporter” could fairly say is:

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos Thursday proposed an estimated $5 billion worth of tax credits for individuals and businesses that contribute to private school scholarships.

And this proposal, taken on its own, without any assertions as to some larger plan, should be candidly studied.

It’s an idea, which is encased in House and Senate bills sponsored by Rep Bradley Byrne (R. Ala) and Senator Ted Cruz (R. Tx) that will allow a 100% tax deduction for individuals donating up to 10 percent of their adjusted gross income, or for businesses donating up to 5 percent of net taxable income.

Which, of course, will drive the teachers’ unions up the wall, because God forbid anyone offer more kids opportunities to escape the  government-run, union-dominated, propaganda factories called “public schools”.

And, as one might guess, lefties in DC took time away from expanding the size and expense of the federal government to bemoan DeVos’s plan, saying that the idea was not budget neutral, was not accommodated by cuts in spending elsewhere or by resultant tax increases elsewhere, and should be killed like the hopes of kids stuck in public schools.

How many of those same officials repeatedly have voted to surpass the so-called “debt ceiling” we can only speculate.

Charming Senator Patty Murray (D. Wash) even went so far as to say the idea would be “dead on arrival”.

And she might be right. Not only do the hardcore lefties oppose it, many conservatives worry that introducing federal tax breaks for private education scholarships opens the door to federal strings attached to any continuation of those or creation of new breaks – strings that could see federal policy manipulation of private school curricula.

As Meckler notes, Lindsey Burke and Adam Michel, of The Heritage Foundation, issued a statement on the plan that said, in part:

This could open the door for further education regulations down the road that neutralize the advantages of private education.

Considering the fact that the US government already engages in regulations on business that James Madison explicitly said were not a power granted to Congress, and the fact that Secretary DeVos heads up a federal department that also is not sanctioned by any enumerated power in the supposed “rule book” of the federal government, the idea that a tax credit will be the key that opens the door to more federal regulations of private school education appears to be missing the larger issue of federal involvement in education itself.

Regardless, it should be noted that it’s good and it’s ethical to leave one’s neighbor to control his or her own earnings and donations, to control the education of his or her kids, and to be able to donate where he or she sees fit.

As a result, it’s always good to lower taxes or allow for tax breaks.

Likewise, it is also good to avoid using the tax code as a tool for behavioral modification, even when trying to fight a government-run school system that automatically gets peoples’ money and ensnares generations of children in its statist web of deceit.

Senator Cruz has assured anxious conservatives and libertarians that he has included in his proposal “iron clad” barriers to the feds dictating private scholarship content as a condition of the tax breaks.

But that might not be enough to convince enough Republicans.

And it will never help pull collectivists Democrats towards a bill that they see as an enemy of their cozy propaganda plants called public schools.