People For the American Way

Public Education Advocates Condemn Trump Tax Scam, Applaud Sewell Bill

People For in Action
Public Education Advocates Condemn Trump Tax Scam, Applaud Sewell Bill
JULY 22, 2017: Marchers in National March for Public Education march to Department of Education Building, protesting cuts in federal funds and the expanding private-school vouchers.

Update: On November 13, the National Coalition for Public Education released another statement on the Trump tax scam. This time, NCPE called out Senators Hatch and Scott for trying to slip their own school voucher-like schemes into the Senate tax legislation. NCPE noted that “[t]hese amendments are just another example of attempts to bolster private schools at the expense of our public schools.” That same day, PFAW and African American Ministers In Action were among fifty NCPE allies who wrote to the U.S. Department of Education to make clear that the department’s “first priority should be funding, supporting, and strengthening our public schools.”

On November 3, People For the American Way announced its opposition to the version of President Trump’s tax scam introduced by U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan and other House Republicans—citing their empty child care promises and the damage that they stand to do to religious liberty by doing away with the Johnson Amendment. Now we’re adding to our list of concerns their attacks on public education, in particular the school voucher-like scheme that they have set up to reward wealthy Americans for putting more money away for their kids’ private school educations.

Both PFAW and African American Ministers In Action are members of the National Coalition for Public Education, which had this to say about the Trump-Ryan plan:

We are disappointed, but not surprised, that Republicans would incentivize wealthy Americans to set aside more resources for private school education in their bill. By ending the Coverdell Education Savings Account program and allowing past and new savings to flow into 529 accounts—which eliminate donors’ income limitations and allow for higher contributions—they are enabling parents to have a new option to grow their assets tax-free and redirect larger amounts of funding to private, religious schools.

Congress should focus on funding our public schools, where 90 percent of children are educated, rather than forgoing revenue to help wealthy families send their children to private schools.

Adding insult to injury, while current law already allows parents to accumulate savings on behalf of future children, Speaker Ryan and his GOP colleagues have specifically allowed “unborn children” to qualify as tuition savers.

Thankfully, we also have good news to share on the public education front. Representative Terri Sewell has introduced the Public Dollars for Public Schools Act, which would put a stop to another tax scheme by barring individuals from “double dipping” and profiting off of private school tuition tax credits claimed on both their state and federal tax returns. PFAW joined AASA, The School Superintendents Association and 31 other organization in applauding the Sewell bill:

Open and nondiscriminatory in their acceptance of all students, American public schools are a unifying factor among the diverse range of communities in our society. Public schools are the only schools that must meet the needs of all students. They do not turn children or families away. They serve all children, including those with physical, behavioral and intellectual disabilities, those who are gifted, and those who have learning differences. The Public Dollars for Public Schools Act ensures that the federal government will no longer allow Americans to profit from their donations to voucher programs that deplete resources from the public school system.

You can view and download our letter, with signers, here.