Tuesday, March 20, 2012

HB 1536 would establish school choice through tax breaks

At a time when the Republican budget relies heavily on cutting education funding, House Education Chairman Rep. John Moore (R - Brandon) has a plan to sneak school choice into Mississippi law via an income tax deduction.  The author of HB 1536 seeks to allow a $5,000 a year deduction (per child) for private school tuition.  Now that won't cover even half of the tuition at the more expensive private schools around Jackson.  But it will cover tuition at rural schools like Manchester Academy in Yazoo City or Washington School in Greenville.  And it will cover nearly all of the tuition at St. Stanislaus in Bay St. Louis or Sacred Heart in Hattiesburg.

So what is the net result?  Middle income and wealthy parents will get tax credits for sending their children to private schools, while poor parents won't be in a position to spend the $5,000 in tuition up front and get a rebate.  Average daily attendance at public schools would wane, leaving them with less money to educate poor children.

Not that I'm overly shocked by anything that Rep. Moore tries to pull with regards to education.  After all, this is the same guy who tried to prevent the teaching of civil rights in schools, eliminate remedial reading courses, and reduce the number of days in the school year.  I have been surprised, though, at the lack of uproar from education advocates.  The bill was filed 8 days ago in the midst of last week's insanity, so it's possible that they've been keeping their powder dry.

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