One of many undiscussed features of SB 193, the private school voucher bill, is the contribution local tax payers would make to the private school tuition of voucher students.
About $363 million of the $900 million annual state adequacy funding comes from the Statewide Education Property Tax (SWEPT), the tax on local property characterized as state revenues but left in place locally as part of the adequacy payment per child. (This spreadsheet shows the amount for each town. It’s real money.)
The current hurried and confused draft of SB 193 does not deal explicitly with the SWEPT but it is clear that the SWEPT would follow the child to fund the private or home schooling contemplated by the bill. The Legislature has already debated this kind of thing. They called it “the donor town debate” and decided that the SWEPT, derived from a tax on the town’s property, would never be sent out of town. SB 193 would send that property tax to private or home schools anywhere in the state.
But there’s another wrinkle as well. One very tuned in House member asked, “What about the 30 or so towns who receive no state funding as part of their adequacy funding? Their entire adequacy funding is the SWEPT. What size voucher would those students get and who would pay for it? The way the current draft of SB 193 reads, those communities would still lose their SWEPT to the voucher program but the State would have to come up with the rest of the voucher funds from new money of some kind. If the student qualified for a free or reduced price lunch, for instance, that would be over $5,000 per year.
Questions like these will probably be resolved eventually, but whatever the answers are, they won’t be good for local tax payers.