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League's Con Con Position
Tuition Tax Credit (Caroline Ingersoll)
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Tuition Tax Credit
One of the most controversial issues to surface in Congress this year is the tuition tax credit for colleges and universities and for elementary and secondary schools. Those of you who attended State Council in May know that the LWVUS recently opposed legislation proposing a tuition tax credit (TTC) for elementary and secondary education (we are not opposed to TTC for colleges). Delegates to the League's National Convention directed the National Board to take appropriate action in opposition to tuition tax credits because the impact of TTC would be contrary to our Human Resources position. The HR position calls for: (1) Action to provide equal access to education, employment and housing; (2) support for desegregation to promote equal access to education.
In addressing the first position, the League notes that TTC is not available to all. Naturally, it benefits only those people who have chosen to send their children to private elementary and secondary schools. But, additionally, no tax credit would accrue to families of four with an income of less than $7200. Thus, those most in need of assistance: families not earning enough to incur a tax liability, would not benefit. Commissioner of Education, Ernest L. Boyer, in opposing such credits, has stated, "Historically, federal aid to education has focused not on schools but on needy students... Tax credits would provide a kind of general aid to children -- not because they're needy but because they go to non-public schools."
Under the second HR position, the League makes it clear that it is committed to racial integration of schools as a necessary condition for equal access to education. Many Leagues who spoke in favor of opposing TTC at the National convention were from communities implementing desegregation plans. They were particularly concerned about the negative impact the tax credit would have on desegregation. They are joined by many who feel the bill will encourage flight from the public schools and provide an incentive for expansion of non-public schools at the expense of public schools -- especially in desegregated areas. The TTC employs the time honored tactic of a tax incentive to move children to private schools.
Status of Bills:
House of Representatives -- passed HR 12050, the TTC Bill. It provides for a credit equal to 25% of college (including vocational, but not graduate schools) tuition and fees up to a maximum of $100 per student. The maximum credit would rise to $250 by 1980. An amendment on 'the House floor, the Vanik-Frenzel amendment, allows for a TTC for elementary and secondary education providing a maximum credit of $100 per child. The amendment passed by a close vote of 209-1914. Representative Heftel voted in favor of the amendment; Representative Akaka voted against the amendment (but is in favor of TTC for colleges). The amended HR 12050 is now in the Senate Finance Committee.
Senate -- The Moynihan-Roth-Packwood Bill, HR 3946, provides a TTC for higher education and also phases in by August 1980, a TTC for elementary and secondary education of 9500 up to $1000 (maximum credit of $500 per student). This bill has been reported out of the Committee on Finance and is awaiting full Senate action.
Calling the TTC for elementary and secondary education "a direct and ominous attack on the public school system", Senator Ernest Hollings (D-SC) will offer an amendment to delete the TTC. In a press release, Hollings said, "Schools are constantly confronted with the challenge of achieving the high expectations society demands of them. Congress should not add to these burdens by subsidizing the costly flight to private and parochial schools. This measure provides exactly that. It would pay citizens not to use a public service. It would result in a higher federal expenditure for the benefit of 5.6 million private school students at the expense of 44 million public school students.
Administration -- President Carter has firmly stated he will veto the TTC Act if it contains TTC for elementary and secondary education. He sees tax credits as an open-ended drain on the treasury and a "devastating" blow to an already troubled American school system. However, there is considerable concern that proponents may try to attach the bill to the tax package which the President would be reluctant to veto.
Cost -- According to an estimate by the Joint Committee on Taxation, the Senate measure (Bill 3946), popularly known as the Packwood-Roth-Moynihan bill, would result in a loss of $5.3 billion in revenue in fiscal year 1982, the first year it is fully implemented. There are both higher and lower estimates, depending on who is estimating the cost. As a memo from National puts it, "If Congress passes the TTC, the U.S. government and the U.S. taxpayer will in effect be subsidizing two competing systems -- a private system versus the public system."
What you can do:
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