Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Public Support of Private Schools

Yesterday, the Frederick News Post carried a couple of articles on the effort of private schools, including parochial schools, to get increased aid from the state for non-religious matters, specifically books, and other logistical items. To help, the first article talks about efforts to get a tax credit for businesses to make contributions to private and public schools. The proposal would allow for business to take a 75 percent tax credit up to $3 million for donations to private schools and up to $2 million for public schools. Similar bills have been introduced in the past but have suffered from a negative report from the General Assembly's budget committees. No wonder, unlike a deduction, a tax credit is a dollar for dollar reduction of your taxes. A deduction generally lowers your taxable income. If implemented in a tough budget year, the cost could be significant to the state, so I would not expect a positive report out of the budget committees.

Appearing the same day thought was the second article about a talk by secular humanist Edd Doerr, who argued before a very small crowd, that the state should get out of the business of supporting private schools, even in the small ways of books and transportation services. Last year, the state "subsidy" of private schools in Maryland was between $4 and $5 million-out of a several billion dollar education budget. In short pennies on the dollar.

As Doerr argued:
Doerr discussed some of the issues he has with the operation of private schools that should preclude them from public funding.

"Public schools educate all children and private schools selectively pick and choose," he said. "They filter out lower social level kids; they want the kids who are going to go to college; they don't want the kids who look like they might cause trouble; and they don't much care about handicapped kids."

Public schools are limited in number and based upon population, but anyone or any organization can create a private school.

"If we're forced to support the proliferation of private schools, the cost of education will go up and the quality will go down," Doerr said.
I am not seeing a "proliferation" of private schools, but assuming there is one, what about the rights of the taxpayers who also pay private school tuition. Let's assume that private schools filter our "lower social level kids" (read poor, black, and/or Hispanic kids) despite strong evidence to the contrary for many schools, then that means rich white kids and their parents not only pay for tuition at private schools but also pay taxes (which by definition poor people don't). Why can't those people who are paying taxes ask for a portion of their tax bill to go to their private school.

Oh, I know why, because the govnerment and only the government gets to determine how to spend your tax money. Silly me and stupid Doerr.

But not all private schools are bastions of rich white snobbery. Catholic schools are run by the Catholic Church and most are located in urban areas, serving a student body that is usually poor, black and Hispanic--although not uniformly so.

Doerr is entitled to his belief, but his charges of racism of private schools and plundering of the govenrmental coffers is ludicrous. Public payments to private schools for books has a long history in our country as well as legislative, executive and oh, yeah Supreme Court support. So it is the custom and the law of the land. After all, rich white, private school attending kids also have rights.