Is Public Education The Only Way That Children Can Learn?

March 12th, 1997 by

Published in Neighbors

In Governor Hunt’s fourth inaugural address he used “publiceducation” so often that observers wondered if this was a new six-syllable word that he had invented. Is there something intrinsically wrong with private education?

What is this debate about? It is a tax fairness issue and an education quality issue. In North Carolina government at all levels spends $4,500 (now $7,500) per child for public education. The parent of a school age child who chooses private education pays twice – once in tuition and again in taxes. The concept, known as school choice, vouchers or tax credits, seeks to reduce the unfairness of the tax code on that parent by allowing a small portion of that parent’s taxes to be redirected so that the parent can pay a small portion of the tuition.

A poll commissioned by the John Locke Foundation found that seven out of 10 North Carolina voters believe that parents should be able to use state education funds to select any public or private school for their child to attend, provided that this would not increase the cost to taxpayers. Of course it would not increase the cost. If a fourth-grader is being education at public expense for $4,500 (now $7,500) and is withdrawn from the public school system at a cost to the state of $1,000, the state and county have made a profit of $3,500 (now $6,500) on this transfer.

Under a fiscal simulation of the $1,000 per year tax credit prepared in 1996 by the Fiscal Research Division of the General Assembly, if even 10 percent of public school students were diverted to private schools this tax credit would have saved the state $88 million and would have saved local school boards $434 million that year – a combined savings of one-half billion dollars.

Parents should not have to pay twice for private education. Gov. Hunt should learn a new vocabulary word – “education”.

The writer represents Southern Wake County in the North Carolina House of Representatives.