Editorial: School tax credits are taxes too
What are you OK paying more for every year?
Automatically. Without question. What would you sign up for today knowing that it could — and would — escalate annually every Jan. 1?
Is there anything?
Gov. Tom Wolf vetoed a bill to that effect.
The topic of the bill is worth debate and there is legitimate support on both sides. It was the Educational Improvement Tax Credit, and that’s something to talk about.
We need to discuss education. We need to explore options. Are public schools doing the best they can? Are private schools up to snuff? Are parochial schools meeting the same requirements when it comes to testing, and should they? What about cyber programs? And who should pay for it all? Should poor kids be shut out of the diversity of opportunities that are open to rich families?
Those are all important questions that need to not just be asked, but answered honestly.
So it isn’t surprising that there were people who very much supported a large increase in the tax credit. The bill would have bumped funding for private school scholarships from $100 million up to $210 million.
Once the figures move into PowerBall-like territory, they can be hard to put into perspective. For a little context, that’s like taking Hempfield Area School District’s 2019-20 budget, and increasing it by the sum of Monessen City and Penn Hills school funding.
That’s a lot. But there was a reason and a conversation. Simple.
The more complicated part is a built-in 10% increase every year.
Again, for context, every school district faces endless discussion about whether taxes will go up or should go up and why. The public sweats bullets over the difference between a 1% increase and a 2%, and that makes sense. That’s real money coming out of real bank accounts. On a fixed income, that percentage can be the difference between paying your taxes or a sheriff’s sale.
So why should money that would flow to private or parochial schools not face the same annual scrutiny?
Spending decisions are supposed to be done annually to keep control. Would anyone greenlight an automatic 10% increase in school taxes each year? Probably not.
After all, the escalating cost of the Pennsylvania Turnpike is already set in stone. Look how well that’s been received.