The Tax Cut Families Need: Credits for Private Schooling

By John Zmirak Published on December 1, 2017

It’s unclear as of this writing what, if anything, will come of the GOP tax bill. A key split has emerged among Republican senators. There are two key factions:

  • Small government, pro-business fans of the lowest corporate tax rate they can pass.
  • Social conservatives who want to use tax policy to foster good decisions by taxpayers. For instance, having children.

Marco Rubio caught flack from the Wall Street Journal for championing a modest increase to the per-child tax credit. Rubio is right. A slightly smaller cut in the corporate tax rate is a small price to pay for rewarding families who raise the next generation of workers and customers.

The tax credit offered by Rubio would have only a modest effect on encouraging parenthood. But it would be at least a symbolic gesture toward a crucial truth: Parents do crucial work that benefits all of society. But they mostly bear the costs themselves. And ever fewer people are choosing to have enough children. America’s birth rate isn’t bottoming out like most Western European countries, but it’s flat and that isn’t good. 

In our Catholic schools, teachers didn’t need to use corporal punishment. They just threatened us with expulsion into PS 666. We saw that as capital punishment.

I have a reform that would do much more to support hard-working couples who’d like to have one more child, but are not sure they can afford it: Tuition tax credits for non-public schools.

Alternatives to P.S. 666

Where I grew up in New York City, parochial schools were affordable. So there was just one kind of kid who went to public school: Those whose parents didn’t really care about them. The schools were not just godless, mediocre and radicalized. They were positively dangerous. We blue collar kids would hurry past them with a shudder. We thanked our parents and God that we didn’t serve as practice stabbing dummies for the thuglets who were too young for juvie or Riker’s Island.

In our Catholic schools, teachers didn’t need to use corporal punishment. They just threatened us with expulsion into PS 666. We saw that as capital punishment. Our schools weren’t lily white by any means. We had plenty of kids of various races, and immigrants. We all got along just fine. What we didn’t have were future felons. Such kids got quickly kicked out. They went on to thrive in the pre-crime internship opportunities offered at Stokely Carmichael Junior High.

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The Poison Spreads, from California of Course

I learned after moving to Texas that in other parts of the country, public schools have been more usable, at least until recently. That’s changing, however, as dumbed down standards imposed by educationist ideologues homogenize school curricula in a national race to the bottom. Textbooks approved for radical California get picked up by other states. That goads the next generation ever further to the left. Anti-American curricula discourage immigrant kids from assimilating. Radicalized teachers unions and LGBT pressure groups collude to promote the latest radical fads across the country. That’s why the shiny new elementary school in conservative Highland Park, Texas will have “gender-neutral” bathrooms.

Does it make sense to have any children if you must send them to a public school?

Add to all that the suffocating secularism, explicit sex education, transgender madness and abortion advocacy. You’re not shaping their souls for heaven. Nor even for clear thinking, patriotism, or success. They’ll emerge with beliefs so alien to yours that you’ll hardly recognize them.

Credits, Not Vouchers

Some propose school vouchers as the answer. I don’t agree. As I wrote last year:

By accepting vouchers, religious schools would become the equivalent of federal contractors. We saw the Obama administration impose the LGBT agenda on such contractors who provide aid to refugees — with no need to consult Congress. Obama’s HHS used Obamacare’s mandate to try to force the Little Sisters of the Poor, and privately held companies like Hobby Lobby, to pay for abortion pills. We saw the State of California come within a hair’s breadth of using Title IX funds to force religious colleges to abandon their morals policies, or face financial ruin. Why would we think that the same fate wouldn’t face schools that accepted vouchers?

The next time the Democrats win the White House, imagine the likes of Elizabeth Warren drawing up the list of policies that schools getting vouchers must follow. Do we really want the school nurse at Calvary Baptist or Sacred Heart junior high dispensing puberty-blockers?  

No, refundable tax credits are a much better answer. They’d help parents pay for private, religious, or home school programs. But they wouldn’t nationalize and federalize religious schools. We should fund those credits by deducting the money, dollar for dollar, from federal education aid to public schools. The goal, in the long run, should be twofold:

  1. To increase the birthrate. Then we don’t have to outsource the “grunt work” of sexual reproduction to poorer foreign countries.
  2. To gradually privatize all education in America. Let educational entrepreneurs, churches, and parents do it.

Public Schools: The Soup Kitchens of Education

We don’t need secular government schools in every neighborhood in America to educate our kids any more than we need shoddy government cafeterias to feed them bowls of gruel.

Public schools weren’t such a menace once. Decades back, they were de facto Protestant, transmitting a basic Anglo-American culture. They knit the country together. They encouraged patriotism, assimilation and prayer. Now they do none of those things. They’re the educational equivalent of filthy VA hospitals or abandoned fallout shelters. It’s time to start phasing them out. Nor do we need grabby, greedy, lefty teachers’ unions taking over local governments, as they did New York City, foisting the bumbling Sandinista veteran Bill de Blasio on my long-suffering hometown.

That’s my modest proposal. I hope Sen. Rubio gets working on it.

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  • James

    I am certain that this will happen the day after my youngest graduates from Catholic school.

    So, you’re welcome.

  • James

    Your experience with private schools in New York is totally different than mine in South Carolina.

    Where I grew up, in South Carolina, private schools were few and far between. Some schools were excellent, but others were worse than the public schools. Many of these schools were founded in the late 1960s, named after Confederate generals, and significantly whiter than the surrounding population. Others were known for teaching science from the Bible, and not in a good way. SC’s private schooling is widely variable and highly unregulated.

    There were only a handful of Catholic schools in the entire state because there were so few Catholics.

    The state of South Carolina does not recognize teacher’s unions.

    The worst schools in South Carolina are not in inner cities, but in the impoverished rural interior of the state, especially along the I-95 corridor. Many of these schools have barely enough students to stay open, much less provide choices.

    In South Carolina, there is a serious risk that privatization will lead to even worse schools than our not-so-great public schools.

    • Zmirak

      I’m for protecting private education in whatever form it takes, and I’m opposed to secular public education on principle. It’s providential that the secular schools are decaying, even as they become more aggressively anti-Christian. It would be better if parents’ tax money (supplemented in some cases with refundable tax credits for the poor) were in their own hands, for them to use in competitive, privately run schools–like all the other businesses they patronize in the absence of state-issued uniforms, government cafeterias, and state-run movie theaters.

      • James

        How do you have competition when there are only enough students to support one school?

        If you do have competition, how do you protect students from scams? (An unfortunate problem in charter schools.)

        Seems to me like New York conservatives are just as bad as New York liberals at telling those of us in flyover country that they know best.

        • Bryan

          I hear your concerns and I agree that they don’t get the kind of coverage they deserve. Usually it’s one sided (doesn’t really matter which side) and usually it brings up the problems but assumes that the only solution is better public schools.We know that that solution works about as well as it does in the private sector.
          I am a product of public schooling. I even grew up in the middle and high schools that were less reputable in my county. But I had good experiences and good teachers when I went through the schools.
          In any school, it’s the teachers that make the most difference. So when shopping for schools for my children, we started in private school, because my wife was a teacher there. Now we homeschool for a couple of reasons. One, it’s been a dream of my wife to be able to do that and financially we can for now. Also it’s a long commute to get to the private school she where she was teaching and that is a strain for her, our children, and our marriage.
          It would be nice if there was a one size fits all solution to the schooling issue. A credit tax deduction is about the closet thing in my opinion for now. Maybe there’s a better solution but I haven’t heard it yet. (Other than fix the public school system.)
          You mentioned protection from scams. There are two ways to absolutely protect from scams, not allow programs that could be scams (ie no charter or private schools) and education. If we really believe parents are responsible for raising their kids, then it needs to be their responsibility to research their child’s potential schools, whether they’re private, charter, or public. I know that my parents did that for me and my siblings. That’s part of the reason why they drove us to our elementary school after we moved to another elementary district. (It wasn’t much farther but too far for an elementary age child to walk.) They didn’t want to cause too much disruption to us but they also liked the teachers and administrators at our elementary school better than the one in our new neighborhood.
          There is no way to make every school the same without resorting to a lowest common denominator system. So no school is going to be equal to the next. They’ll have differences which means parents have choices. In a privatized setting, ultimately this means there may be some students who are scammed but the effect can be minimized by parents educating themselves and their friends to stay away from the ones that are scams. If there’s no money coming in, the scam will move on.
          Parents want what’s best for their children. This is one solution that puts that responsibility and privilege back into their hands.

      • James

        “I’m for protecting private education in whatever form it takes”

        So are you cool with Saudi funded madrassas?

  • Stephen D

    As a matter of principle I think the privatisation of schools is correct in a diverse democracy. Government control of education seems to me to be a socialist program. Biblically, the parent, not the State, is responsible for the education of the child. Privatisation will create diversity and restore parental control. This is particularly important for Christians who do not want their children to be educated in godless schools, in which atheism is the default setting.

  • Howard Rosenbaum

    Your “modest proposal” is a nobel yet ( as you obviously know ) impractical objective.
    Thats why alternative choices are popping up faster than pimples on adolescents at a candy convention. Private schools , charter schools, Christian schools, home schools & even virtual schools are lining up to address the needs of parents & students dissatisfied
    w/the bureaucracy or worse the secularist indoctrination awaiting many of those potential “wards of the state’
    Ideally were these options to actually dominate the education industry
    eventually the state run institutions of “lower learning” as they may sometimes be categorized would cease to provide a needed service. Though we always will have enough liberals ( I think ? ) & parentally deficient kids who will fill the hallowed halls of the public schools. At least those “liberals” who aren’t among the “privileged class ” …

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