Eddie Campbell, a choir teacher from Knox County elected this spring as the new president of the Kentucky Education Association – the state teachers’ union – has composed an ugly ditty published recently by the Courier Journal with several dissonant notes regarding a proposed scholarship tax-credit policy which would open to the door to a better education for thousands of children across our state.
Campbell falsely argues that a contributor could donate to a scholarship-granting organization created to receive contributions and distribute scholarships to qualified Kentucky students, claim the deduction on both state and federal tax returns and thus end up with a tax deduction larger than his contribution.
He disingenuously makes this claim even though a loophole created for a period of time that could have theoretically allowed donors to get back more than they contributed was slammed shut by clear guidelines at both the state and federal levels, including a direct statement added to the Kentucky bill that donors to such programs cannot receive tax reductions in excess of the amounts they donate.
Campbell’s second verse actually repeats an old failed tune: school-choice programs harm public education.
Vicki Alger, Ph.D., a nationally recognized school-choice researcher and visiting fellow with the Bluegrass Institute whose work was critical in the Supreme Court’s decision to uphold Arizona’s first-in-the-nation tax-credit scholarship program, questioned Campbell’s logic when carried to its logical conclusion.
“He would have us believe that the 275,000 children from the 23 scholarship tax credit programs currently operating in 18 states and the donors making those opportunities possible are draining money from district public schools that, apparently, have some unalienable, God-given right to other people’s children as well as their associated funding,” Alger said.
Also, she noted, Campbell’s silly draining logic means no Kentucky family with school-age children should ever be allowed to move because doing so would “starve” their current public-school districts.
Rather than draining public education, each of 18 studies to date focusing on the economic effects of tax-credit scholarship programs finds they generate savings, not costs, for states.
For example, a recent report by Martin Lueken, Ph.D., EdChoice’s director of fiscal policy and analysis, examined the economic impact of programs representing 90 percent of all scholarships awarded nationwide and found that the annual savings to states range between $2 million and $223 million.
Even though there’s an upfront loss of revenue, states with scholarship tax-credit policies realize net savings in the long run since the average scholarships are significantly less than the amount public schools spend per student.
As a result, every student who uses a scholarship to enroll in a private school instead of a public one generates savings between $1,650 and $3,000 per student, according to Lueken’s expansive analysis.
Ideological opponents of parental choice like Campbell conveniently ignore this economic reality by focusing solely on the cost side of the ledger.
But perhaps the worst tune of all is Campbell’s claim that scholarship tax-credit programs only benefit white, wealthy families.
The reality is that minorities – who tend to disproportionately come from low-income families and be trapped in failing public schools – are the primary beneficiaries of such programs.
According to Florida’s Office of Independent Education and Parental Choice, 67% of students enrolled in the Sunshine State’s scholarship program – one of the nation’s largest – are either black or Hispanic.
The overall number of students using the program also has skyrocketed just in recent years – from about 70,000 during the 2014-15 school year to more than 104,000 during the 2018-19 year.
Meanwhile, Kentucky continues to fall farther behind as union bosses carry on their fearmongering-based campaigns of misinformation.
Jim Waters is president and CEO of the Bluegrass Institute for Public Policy Solutions, Kentucky’s free-market think tank. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and @bipps on Twitter.
Editor’s note: The Bluegrass Beacon is a weekly syndicated newspaper column posted on the Bluegrass Institute’s website after being released to and published by newspapers statewide.