Harvard University’s Program on Education Policy and Governance has published a new report on the Arizona tuition scholarship tax credit. The report does a great deal to answer the misleading claims of some of the program’s critics. Vicki Murray of California’s Pacific Research Institute surveyed Arizona scholarship groups and found the tuition tax credit really does expand the options available for middle- and low-income families to educate their children.
Those who oppose parental choice often claim the tuition tax credit only benefits children from wealthy families. However, the Harvard analysis finds the median family income for students with tax credit scholarships was almost $5,000 lower than the statewide median family income. The median income of families with tuition scholarships was also almost $5,000 lower than the median incomes of their home neighborhoods, as estimated using student addresses and zip codes. More than two-thirds of the families’ incomes would qualify them for Arizona’s corporate income tax-credit scholarship program, which is limited to $75,467 or less for a family of four.
Some may complain that family income limits for the corporate tax credit is too high, but compared to what? Remember, there are no limits on family income to attend public schools. No one blinks at the notion of the state paying for a public education for the children of billionaires.
In 2010, Arizona lawmakers improved the transparency and accountability of the tuition tax credit system. In the next legislative session that starts in January, lawmakers should substantially increase the funds available for scholarship groups to help more children and reduce their waiting lists. Kids and the state budget can both be winners.
Dr. Matthew Ladner is the vice president of research at the Goldwater Institute.
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