There’s been some, albeit far too little, discussion of the harm that the Republican tax bill will do to colleges and universities. However, the nastiness hidden in the tax-cuts-for-the-wealthy bill that passed the Senate last night will also hurt public schools:
- The bill will expand the use of 529 plans – tax-advantaged savings plans the use of which was heretofore restricted to higher education – to pay for private elementary and high schools, including religious schools. This provision will predominantly benefit wealthy parents who can afford to put money aside for college – to the tune of as much as $30,000 dollars in tax savings per child . It will, of course, end up depriving public schools of the funds and support they require to thrive as the children of well-to-do parents migrate to the private sphere.
- The partial repeal of State and Local Tax Deduction (SALT) will also have a deleterious effect on public education. As ThinkProgress notes:
Under SALT, income that paid for public schools went untaxed at the federal level. Current law allows states that raise taxes to better fund public schools to receive a deduction through SALT. The Senate bill ends that ability. As states struggle to lessen the impact of the tax bill on citizens, there will be an outsized amount of pressure on the taxes that typically help public schools.
Missouri’s boy Governor, Eric Greitens, is a big beneficiary of the largess of Donald Trump’s Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos and her family. As ThinkProgress observes, these tax provisions are simply setting the table for her efforts to privatize public education. And here in Missouri, Greitens has been getting a head start clearing the table in order to to make Betsy’s job easier.
In an extraordinarily awkward power play, Greitens played musical chairs with the State Board of Education – firing and replacing its members over and over – until he packed it in just the right way to begin to implement the Devos agenda. His first step: Fire respected Public Education advocate, Commissioner Margie Vendeven, who, since her appointment in 2015, has done a remarkable job given the poor level of state education funding. Next step: Find and appoint an Commissioner who will be amenable to political direction and oversee the expansion of charter schools and the extension of public funding to private and religious schools. Odds are that Missouri under Greitens – and with the educational tweaking encouraged by the GOP middle-class-tax-increase bill – will soon have a well-established dual educational track, one for well-off families and a default public system that will, as the effect of neglect accumulates further than even at present, wither.
In spite of all the hype about drastic measures needed to rescue our “failing” educational system, it works just fine for those living in affluent areas where the bulk of school funding is channeled via property taxes. That could change, though, as funds are diverted to the private sphere. Nor should you expect the charter school part of the equation to help those in areas where the public school system is not adequately funded. Privatizing education and eliminating the type of oversight we have been able to institute in our public school system will not help anyone. Charters, like public schools, show good results when they have full resources and well-prepared students. When they don’t, they perform no better than the worst public schools.
Our universal, public educational system has long been one of our national treasures – it has been one of the main drivers of our prosperity and one of the best guarantors of our democracy. It is sad and infuriating to see it decimated by selfish, dim-witted plutocrats and politicians like Greitens, up for sale to the highest bidder. But you better get used to despair and anger over the destruction of all that was good about our way of life; it looks like that’s just the way it’s going to be in the new American oligarchy.