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Scholarship Tax Credits and the Bizarre Scapegoating of Corporate Philanthropy

The education establishment in Alabama doesn’t seem to have recovered from the big blindside victory for kids four months ago, when the state adopted a scholarship tax credit program. It’s made for a lot of fodder in the local media, including today’s gem from the Times Daily Montgomery Bureau:

Several [state board of education] members have been outspoken against the Accountability Act and lack of input they had into it.

“How in the world are we allowing corporations to pay for children to go to private schools?” said Ella Bell, of Montgomery. “Is there any legal ramifications of this?

“I am going to seek legal advice on this because it is unfair to the children of my district.”

Gasp! Corporations can give money to scholarship funds that enable kids to afford tuition at a private school they have chosen? Someone might want to tell the state board member that can take place with OR without a tax credit program. Here in Colorado, businesses or individuals can make donations to organizations like ACE Scholarships or other non-profit K-12 scholarship organizations.

Maybe, though, the offense is the tax credit itself — which encourages more businesses (I’m sorry, e-e-e-vil corporations) to contribute to scholarship organizations while reducing how much they pay in taxes to the public education system. So it’s okay to take corporate funds involuntarily to underwrite an education system where kids are assigned to attend, but it’s horrifying to allow corporate funds to support at-risk students in their choice of a school that very likely is more supportive of their individual needs?

The “legal advice” to be found would show a perfect track record for such programs in other states — at least as far as recognizing the ability of corporations to receive tax credits for scholarship donations. Even the “particularly odd” logic in a recent New Hampshire court ruling only challenged the right as it pertains to students choosing to attend religious schools. And this one case absolutely remains an outlier.

Or maybe people who express such beliefs should just relax, stop worrying, and learn to accept businesses getting involved to promote an educated populace. Several months ago, the prolific Rick Hess diagnosed the irrational fear:

…students will be well-served if educators, parents and policy makers recognize that public systems, nonprofits and for-profits all have vital roles to play when it comes to providing great schooling for 50 million children. [emphasis added]

Perhaps Ms. Bell and some of the other choice opponents can brush up on what scholarship tax credits really are all about by reading the paper A Scholarship Tax Credit Program for Colorado, or by visiting the wonderful Colorado Kids Win website. But maybe a good place to start is spending 90 seconds to watch this clever and informative video:

Given the controversial rough start that K-12 tuition tax credits have faced in Alabama (even given the bizarre attacks on profit-making companies), supporters of educational freedom — even as they roll up their sleeves and get to work — ought to be able to take comfort in the trend of increased popularity for such programs. There may be some uphill climbs ahead, but at least they’ll get to a better place for kids, right?