"A child's learning is the funtion more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Corporate Tax Credits to Save Poor Children

While we witness BushCo. write a check out of our account for $30 billion to bail out one of the corporate sewers on Wall Street that has operated entirely without accountability of any kind, we see nothing of the sort going on when it comes to funding schools or opportunities for the poor, where children and teachers are blamed for a societal failure. Bear Stearn's execs walk away with tens of millions from their cesspool of corruption, while teachers lose their jobs in reorganization efforts and children are held back to assure their continued failure.

In fact, in a state like New Jersey that has actually tried to mitigate a history of segregation and oppression (following Kozol's 1992 exposure of Camden's heartbreaking reality), the cost has been pushed onto the middle class property tax bill. Playing to the resentment among white homeowners, the improvements in school facilities and resources that have resulted from the Abbott decisions are now being attacked by school privatizers and corporate welfare artists as a waste of money.

These leeches in New Jersey operate under the name of E3 with grants from the same deep pockets that have built Sam's School of Education Reform at the University of Arkansas, whose Endowed Chair of School Choice, Patrick Wolf, is the lead author of the "scientifically-based" five-year voucher study in Milwaukee. Is Endowed Professor of School Choice a giveaway to the underlying ideology, or what! And who chairs that Department? None other than Jay P. Greene, the longtime edu-propagandist for the Manhattan Institute, who now uses his academic cred to push merit pay, vouchers and charters to replace public education.

In New Jersey, E3 wants to rescue poor children from these new schools that are being built for them by offering their parents a school voucher (discounted by $5,000 from the State level of per-pupil spending). These vouchers would be paid for by corporations, whose philanthropy will be rewarded by a dollar for dollar tax credit to send New Jersey's poor children to charter schools that are already receiving tax-deductible dollars from the same corporations. In effect, the State would end up paying to fund schooling for the poor while decreasing State revenues by allowing corporations to avoid their tax responsibilities. Helluva deal.

A bit from APP, which always enjoys piling onto the corporate bandwagon:

There's only one thing lacking in the Abbott districts — academic quality, said Dan Gaby, executive director of Excellent Education for Everyone. His group, known as E3, favors state financial support of private schools. Gaby served as vice president of the state Board of Education in the 1970s under former Democratic Gov. Brendan T. Byrne.

Despite the $30 billion spent on education in the Abbott districts over the last decade, standardized state test scores show little improvement, except in the elementary grades, according to state Department of Education data.

In some of the poorest districts, dropout rates remain high. Asbury Park High School's graduation rate was 63.5 percent last year. Camden High School's graduation rate was 49.8 percent. In 2007, the state's average graduation rate was 92.3 percent.

"We could spend half the money and get better results. The children are out of time, and the taxpayers are out of money," Gaby said.

His group wants to permit corporations to provide scholarships of up to $9,000 per pupil for low-income parents in seven low-income school districts, including Lakewood and Camden.

Under bill A-1003, corporations would pay for the scholarships, which low-income parents could use to move their children from what Gaby termed "dangerous schools . . . that have a proven track record of failure" to safer, private schools.

Corporations would get a tax break equal to every dollar they contribute, under the bill. The idea is similar to a program in place in Arizona.

The fiscal impact of the bill is in dispute.

Gaby said New Jersey taxpayers would save money because it would cost less to educate fewer pupils in the public school system if enough urban students attended private or religious schools.

But the powerful teachers union, feared by some legislators because of its well-organized, motivated, get-out-the-vote drives, is opposed to the bill.

Sending urban children to private schools wouldn't save money, said Steve Wollmer, spokesman for the New Jersey Education Association. He said it would funnel money from public schools to private and religious institutions, resulting in a net loss of $360 million for urban districts over the proposed five-year pilot program.

The bill remains in the Assembly Education Committee, awaiting a hearing.

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