by Max Brantley
Read this New York Times report on how people are scamming a supposedly charitable effort to produce money to allow poor children to attend private schools. The dollar-for-dollar tax credit has been perverted to support tuition for those giving the money. This idea is cooking in Arkansas already; a bill to accomplish it was sponsored by Republicans in 2011. Watch for it. The article describes a meeting about the program at a Georgia private church school.
A handout circulated at the meeting instructed families to donate, qualify for a tax credit and then apply for a scholarship for their own children, many of whom were already attending the school.
“If a student has friends, relatives or even corporations that pay Georgia income tax, all of those people can make a donation to that child’s school,” added an official with a scholarship group working with the school.
The exchange at Gwinnett Christian Academy, a recording of which was obtained by The New York Times, is just one example of how scholarship programs have been twisted to benefit private schools at the expense of the neediest children.
Spreading at a time of deep cutbacks in public schools, the programs are operating in eight states and represent one of the fastest-growing components of the school choice movement. This school year alone, the programs redirected nearly $350 million that would have gone into public budgets to pay for private school scholarships for 129,000 students, according to the Alliance for School Choice, an advocacy organization. Legislators in at least nine other states are considering the programs.
While the scholarship programs have helped many children whose parents would have to scrimp or work several jobs to send them to private schools, the money has also been used to attract star football players, expand the payrolls of the nonprofit scholarship groups and spread the theology of creationism, interviews and documents show.
The net effect has been propagation of a get-mine attitude: "Let's create schools for kids like mine and my friends and divert public money to do it. The dregs left behind? Not my problem."