Here is Kevin Landrigan’s follow up on his first report on this issue.
Some might ask what’s the ethical concern with tax credit scholarship programs offering to pay schools part of their administration fee money in order to generate business owner donors to the tax credit program.
The Telegraph reported exclusively on Friday that the leading scholarship group, the Network for Educational Opportunity, had made this offer to the Roman Catholic Church in New Hampshire that was declined. NEO officials insist they are not pursuing this “fund-raiser” model of generating donations because they are right up against a June 15 deadline to generate all the tax credits that could be turned into scholarships for the next school year.
Here’s the potential quagmire: The limit on these scholarships is $2,500. NEO officials have set a target to try and raise $500,000 in scholarships though they’ve only raised about 30 percent of that ($135,000) as of now. Even at the higher number this would mean the most number of scholarships they could offer is 200.
Actually, the amount committed to NEO has been going down rather than up. If businesses don’t make a donation within 60 days after requesting a tax credit, they lose it. The voucher program has lost over $15,000 so far because businesses have not followed through in making their donations. After all is said and done, even if the program were found to be constitutional, NEO would be making a very small number of voucher awards.
But they’ve already got 700 applicants. So naturally which schools would have a better chance of getting these scholarships than those that kicked over the most in tax credit donations to the scholarship organization? You get the picture.
Kevin’s point about ethically challenged scholarship decisions is reinforced by the fact that NEO has not issued guidelines for how vouchers would be awarded to schools. When asked what considerations NEO will use in deciding, the executive director gives a one word answer: “Income.” The staff talks about following the law, favoring the earliest voucher applicants and prioritizing the poorest families but it’s all pretty loose. Will there be multiple scholarships to some families? Most school tuitions are far more than the family can afford, even with the scholarship. NEO says it will not take that into account in making voucher decisions. So how would NEO decide on the amounts to be awarded and ensure that it is enough to help? A high proportion of the applicants already go to the school they want the voucher to go to. Even aside from the kickback proposal, how will the close relationship NEO has with some of the schools factor into the decision? Over 140 of the applicants are students who are already homeschoolers and are now applying for the additional $625 per child subsidy from the voucher program. How will NEO prioritize those applications?
NEO seems to have given no consideration to the obvious solutions, like a lottery, or some other form of clear public guidelines.