media
March 05, 2007

Q&A: Why NYSUT opposes vouchers

Source: NYSUT Newswire

Background

Religious and private school groups are lobbying hard at the Capitol in support of a tax deduction for private school tuition. This proposal would redirect public resources to private entities that do not have to meet state standards and are free to discriminate against special ed students, students under-performing academically, and English language learners. 

NYSUT is determined to counter the myths on this issue and convince legislators to stand with NYSUT in its support of using public funds for public schools, not private interests. 

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a tuition tax deduction? 

A tax deduction is a reduction in taxable income before a tax bill is calculated. Money parents would spend on private school tuition would essentially be non-taxable, which would diminish the state's tax revenue in order to subsidize parents' decisions to send their children to private schools. 

How are tuition tax deductions different from school vouchers? 

The impact is identical, although the two funding methods are set up differently. A voucher provides a direct government subsidy to a private school. The tax dollars end up in the same place with a tuition tax deduction, but are funneled through parents who purchase services from private and religious education institutions. The tax deduction is a back-door strategy designed to achieve the same results as vouchers.

Who benefits? 

An analysis by NYSUT researchers shows that the primary beneficiaries of these proposals would not be poor families, as proponents argue, but instead would be parents already choosing to send their children to attend religious and private schools, and capable of paying the tuition. This is exactly what has happened in other states. 

Why does NYSUT oppose back-door voucher plans?

NYSUT believes back-door voucher proposals would be disastrous public policy. They would divert tax dollars to a small population and primarily benefit private and religious schools that can hand-pick students, can deny admission to students of special needs, and are unaccountable to the public.

Tuition tax deductions require parents to upfront the costs and collect the deduction later, making them a hollow benefit to the state's poorest families. Voucher schemes would open up a drain to funnel funds that should be used for all students. Once these private groups are invited to the state budget trough, they'll be back every year. In short, as a matter of principle, public funds should be used for public schools, not private entities.

Who is promoting tuition tax vouchers?

Private and religious schools and for-profit entities, which do not have to accept special needs kids and are not accountable to the public, are the primary proponents. These groups see vouchers as an excellent marketing tool that will help them bring in more tuition and pad their revenues.

What has been the experience of other states?

In Illinois, only three percent of the state's tax credit money went to families earning less than $20,000 a year, while more than half went to families earning more than $80,000 a year. "Maybe I was naive," said Glenn Max McGee, Illinois' former superintendent of education. "I said this was going to benefit poor kids." Arizona and Pennsylvania had nearly identical experiences.

In Florida, $300,000 in public tax dollars went to a religious school run by the suspected leader of a terrorist group.