Viewpoint: Tax deductions take a heavy toll on public schools
Do you know:
• Wisconsin parents, regardless of income, who send their children to a private/religious school are now entitled to a tuition tax deduction.
• This tax deduction will be applied to nearly 100,000 students who are or will attend a private/religious school. The great majority of these private/religious schools are also funded with taxpayer money.
• Parents will receive a tax deduction of $10,000 for each high school student and a $4,000 tax deduction for K-8 students attending a private/religious school.
• These tax deductions are expected to reduce Wisconsin’s revenue by $30,000,000 in 2014-2015, and in the next biennium the reduction will at least be doubled.
• This tax break is in addition to the expansion of the state’s voucher/choice program in which the state and state taxpayers pay part or all of the private school tuition for these 100,000 students.
• Voucher/choice schools are private/religious schools that receive taxpayer funding to pay for the student’s tuition. These voucher schools will receive $7,210 per K-8 student and $7,856 per high school student for the next two years. These amounts are guaranteed.
When voucher limits are lifted, it will cost over $700 million annually to fund the education of students already attending private/religious schools.
• Milwaukee was forced to levy more than $50 million in taxes in 2011 to subsidize schools in the voucher program over which MPS has no authority or control. This “voucher tax” will be more evident across the state as public school districts deal with cuts to pay for these private schools.
• Students in these private/religious, taxpayer funded schools do not perform any better and usually worse than public school students when tested using the WKCE test.
Voucher schools are now exempt from releasing student test scores under the budget signed by Governor Walker. There is no state-wide accountability system that would hold private, taxpayer-funded schools to the same standards as public schools. At this time, we have no means to compare voucher students’ performance to public school students’ performance.
• Voucher schools are exempt from opening their business records and do not have to comply to open meeting laws. Consequently, taxpayers have no clear picture of how our tax dollars are being used.
It is our duty as citizens and taxpayers to be aware of the impact these changes will have on public schools.
References: The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (11/28/2012, 10/24/2012, 2/13/2013, 2/18/2013,1/31/2013, 10/24/2013, 3/29/2011), Capital Times (2/9/2013), Legislative Fiscal Bureau.
Joyce Luedke, Hayward