Friday, April 4, 2014

Tax cuts to private school families hurt public school investments

$30 million in "tax cuts" really $30 million more in cuts to public schools

Public schools are considerably important in Wisconsin. For many generations in our state, our public schools have educated and prepared our students for jobs and life in general so that they could become proper citizens within our country, state, and local communities.

When families choose to go a different route, to educate their children in a private school setting, that is also a fine choice to make. It is their right as parents to determine, whether on religious grounds or otherwise, what their children’s education should look like.

These individuals have, for many years, been expected to pay the same taxes that go toward providing a sound education for public school students. On the surface, this may sound unfair, as their children are not reaping the education that their parents are paying taxes for; and indeed, it was because of this belief that the Republican-led legislature sought and passed a tax deduction for parents with children in private school settings.

Yet that policy is backwards thinking -- it misses the point of public school funding entirely. When a parent sends their child to a public school, their tax dollars do not fund JUST their child’s education. Rather, it helps to fund the entire school, to provide an equal and high level of education for the entire student body. Individuals without children at all also help fund these schools, not because they may someday have children within those hallways, but because schools themselves are investments in the community at-large.

The benefits of these investments in our schools are incalculable. Communities create an educated population of children, who grow into adulthood ready to tackle their jobs and their lives in a more decisive way. When funds are taken away from this system -- whether by vouchers or by tax deductions for students in private schooling -- it takes away the investment that the community has made.

In all, the tax cut that Republicans put in place will end up costing the public school system around $30 million annually. This cut comes just a few years after Gov. Scott Walker and his Republican legislature cut school funding by more than $900 million in 2011. At what point will Republicans and voters across the state start to wonder: just how many cuts can public schools take in Wisconsin?


I’m supporting Democratic candidate for governor Mary Burke for many reasons. Among some of the foremost reasons is her dedication to a better education for every student across the state. Burke has pledged to work towards eliminating the tax break for parents with students who have private school educations.

On its surface, that again sounds unfair. But remember: these tax cuts are more cuts to public education, and the choice to place a student in a private school is just that: a choice. When tax cuts are given to these families, the end result isn’t relief to families who already pay for their child’s education. What really happens is that funds are taken away from children in schools across the state.

Private school kids, regardless of whether this tax break is in place or not, will still get a sound education. Kids in public schools, on the other hand, who will lose significant funding if the tax break remains in place...well, not so much.

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