How Can States Give Tax Money to Private, Religious Schools? Loopholes, Of Course
There was a story in The New York Times today about state programs that offer tax credits to people who donate to private (mostly religious) primary and secondary schools. It's a long story ,and you may have skipped over it, but I'd like to recommend it to you, because so many of the most infuriating things about America happen as a result of these laws.
First of all, the laws are an end run around legal restrictions on the funding of religious schools. The people who support the laws claim that they're constitutional because no tax money goes to religious schools, but if you get a dollar-for-dollar tax credit for donating to a religious school, as the story says you do in Georgia, that's indirect funding of religious schools by means of diverted tax money -- but, of course, wingnut-dominated courts don't see it that way, so the state laws are routinely upheld.
According to the story, the laws exist ostensibly to set up scholarships that help needy kids escape bad public schools, but, in fact, what generally happens is that families raise the money from friends and relatives, then send their own kids to the schools -- needy kids never get scholarships. Or parents who send their kids to these private schools already pretend to enroll their kids in public school, then get this money to divert the already diverted kids. Or the money is raised to get some hotshot football player into a particular private school.
Much of the money goes to religious schools, some of which have appalling views. One headmaster says:
"Not only do we teach the students that creation is the way the world was created and that God is in control and he made all things, we also teach them what the false theories of the world are, such as the Big Bang theory and Darwinism. We teach those as fallacies."
An economics book used in some high schools holds that the Antichrist -- a world ruler predicted in the New Testament -- will one day control what is bought and sold.
Oh, but Mammon will be served as well as God -- groups have sprung up to collect and administer the scholarship money (so even if you believe access to these schools is good for kids, there's less money for scholarships than meets the eye). Lobbyists get involved: they control some scholarship money and consult with lawmakers on who should get it; you can imagine the likely back-scratching. Lobbyists from dubious industries (e.g., the fracking industry in Pennsylvania), make contributions to these schools, and thus curry favor with legislators.
Oh, did I mention that ALEC is involved in promoting these schemes?
This may not be everything that's wrong with America, but it's close to everything.