Last week Senator Mel Martinez of Florida introduced a bill that would allow public money to be used to pay for private school tuition. The so-called TEACH Act would provide a tax credit of up to $4,500 to reimburse parents for tuition paid to private and religious schools. People For the American Way Florida Deputy Director Christopher Norwood issued the following statement:
“The tuition tax credit scheme introduced by Senator Martinez is nothing more than a voucher program in disguise. Under this plan, money from public coffers would help subsidize private and religious schools. Our research shows that schemes like this primarily benefit middle-class and wealthy families who can otherwise afford to send their children to private schools. This program would direct public money to private schools with no accountability or public benefit.
“It is disingenuous for Senator Martinez to say that using public money to send children to private schools would help alleviate the ‘financial burden on our public schools.’ Senator Martinez says more than five million American children attend private schools. If all of them participated in this program, the cost to the federal government would be around $22.5 billion. That money would go a long way toward fully funding No Child Left Behind or the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. If Senator Martinez truly cares about our nation’s public schools, perhaps he would be willing to spend some of that $22.5 billion on straight-forward, effective, research-proven reforms like lowering class sizes, increasing professional development opportunities for teachers and expanding community-school partnerships. Any of these would be a much better use of public money than subsidizing the private education of wealthy children.
“Mel Martinez and his friends in the Senate seem more interested in giving tax breaks to the rich and pandering to the Right Wing than making American public schools better.”