Thursday, August 31, 2017
OK, this may be shooting fish in a barrel, but I can't resist....
Illinois has passed a new school funding law that embodies a significant compromise deal by Democrats and Republicans. Among other things, the law reworks the funding formula to rely less on property taxes, thereby increasing the share of funding allocated to poorer districts. It also includes a school-choice measure: a 5-year pilot program of tax credits for people who donate to provide scholarships for modest-income students to attend private schools. Democrats wanted the first of these; Republicans wanted the second. My first reaction, as a temperamental and philosophical moderate, is that it's great simply that the two sides came together. My second reaction is that both of these measures are good for the poorest students: on the one hand, money matters, and on the other, Catholic schools (the largest group of private schools) do an especially good job of educating disadvantaged children.
But some Democrats (I think some Republicans too) didn't go along. They were willing to vote against the funding-allocation changes, and see them defeated, in order to stop a relatively modest school-choice program. One of them, Rep. Will Guzzardi, D-Chicago, offered one of the sillier sound-bites against school choice that I've heard. He told the Chicago Sun-Times: that the program was "unconscionable" because:
“Eventually hundreds of millions of dollars of our public money is going to be diverted away to give tax breaks to very wealthy people and big businesses who are contributing to private school scholarships and that’s wrong to me."
Yes, it's unconscionable to provide a tax break to line the pockets of wealthy people with money that they must give to assist poor people. Indeed, that whole tax deduction thing for gifts made to charities that help the needy--what an unconscionable giveaway to the privileged.
If you oppose school choice, make your arguments under the real issues: how to get the best educational quality, how to teach kids respect for differing races or religions, etc. Don't mindlessly thrown in progressive-sounding but irrelevant phrases like "tax breaks to very wealthy people and big business."