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Mr. Gibbons’ Report Card: Errors of biblical proportions

Mr. Gibbons' Report CardPastors for Texas Children

Tax Credit Scholarships in Texas are facing a coordinated, albeit misleading, campaign from school choice opponents. One leading source of criticism comes from a group of religious leaders called Pastors for Texas Children.

The group makes a number of incorrect claims including that private schools can “discriminate on race…” The U.S. Supreme Court settled that issue in 1976 deciding that private school admissions could not be based on race.

The pastors also argue the scholarship program would “divert public money to religious schools in violation of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which prohibits any establishment of religion.”

The irony is biblical. A tax credit scholarship no more violates the First Amendment than does granting tax exempt status for churches. See relevant court cases here and here.

Moses parts the Red Sea
Your talking points are off by this much.

Putting aside the pastors’ confusion over the difference between school vouchers and tax-credit scholarships, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 13 years ago, in Zelman v. Simmons-Harristhat school vouchers pass constitutional muster if education is the primary purpose and if parents have options from a variety of religious and non-religious schools.

The First Amendment protects religious pluralism. That’s good news for a group of pastors whose own institutions are likely supported by tax -deductible donations and tax-exemptions.

Grade: Needs Improvement

amNew York

amNew YorkWhy do states put caps on the number of charter schools that can open? In New York City, an estimated 163,000 students are waiting for seats to open. It certainly isn’t to help these kids, especially when black, Hispanic and low-income students attending New York City charter schools are outperforming their peers in neighborhood schools.

Politicians create charter school caps to slow the growth of charters and protect their school district allies from competition.

The editorial board for amNew York, an alternative magazine for young New York professionals, takes a stand against charter school caps.

“Our children have been caught in a political battle of wills. Enough is enough. It’s time to stop robbing them of educational choices while politics takes center stage and waitlists grow.”

Grade: Satisfactory

Newark City Council

While Lauderhill, Fla. looks to curb the growth of private and charter schools within its borders, the Newark City Council in New Jersey takes an opposite stand. In a 7-2 vote, the city council passed a resolution condemning state efforts, through Assembly Bill 4351, to curb charter school growth. The bill seeks to impose a 3-year moratorium on new charter schools opening in the state.

Resolutions don’t carry legal weight, but it is still a strong, albeit symbolic, stand from urban leadership in support of parental choice.

Grade: Satisfactory

Honerable(ish) Mention:

Governor Bullock of Montana
Gov. Bullock

Montana Gov. Steve Bullock (D) allowed SB 410 a tax-credit scholarship program to pass into law without his signature. The program gives donors a tax credit on contributions to school choice scholarship granting organizations, however the credit is limited to a mere $150. This limitation may make it difficult to create a meaningful private school choice program in Montana, but it is a step in the right direction. According to the AP, Bullock released a statement on Monday that he allowed the bill to become law “because it does not divert or reduce state funding for public schools.”

Like the state’s new tax credit scholarship program, Bullock has taken a step in the right direction, but the governor’s veto of a special needs scholarship program last week falls short of “satisfactory.”

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BY Patrick R. Gibbons

Patrick Gibbons is public affairs manager at Step Up for Students and a research fellow for the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice. A former teacher, he lived in Las Vegas, Nev., for five years, where he worked as an education writer and researcher. He can be reached at (813) 498.1991 or emailed at Follow Patrick on Twitter: at @PatrickRGibbons and @redefinEDonline.