Incentives Students Are More Engaged
Special Report - September 22, 2009
High school students who attend private schools through the aid of tax credit scholarships appear to be more politically tolerant and engaged in volunteer work in their communities than public high school students, according to a new study from the Goldwater Institute. The studywhich was written by Matthew Ladner, Ph.D., vice president for research at the Goldwater Instituteis based on an analysis of a survey of high school students in Arizona, comparing students who attended area public high schools with some students who attended private schools through the aid of tax credit scholarships. The study notes that Arizona was the first state in the nation to pass an education tax credit scholarship law in 1997. Tax credit scholarships allow “taxpayers to contribute to non profit organizations providing scholarship assistance for children to attend private schools.” Individuals can make a donation of $500 and couples can make a joint donation of $1,000 to “receive a dollar-for-dollar credit against their state income tax liability.” In 2007, 27,153 students attended private schools in Arizona with tax credit scholarships.
The Goldwater Institute study found that “students attending private schools with the assistance of a tax credit scholarship display substantially higher levels of political tolerance and volunteerism” than public school students. For example, 83 percent of private school/tax credit students agreed that “people whose views I oppose should be allowed to give a speech in my neighborhood,” compared to 53.3 percent of public school students in the survey. Additionally, the survey found that 76 percent of private/tax credit students agreed that “My school teaches me to value, respect and tolerate differences in others,” compared to 51.3 percent of public school students. When asked about volunteering in their communities, 47 percent of private school/tax credit students said it “is very important to me,” compared to 35.8 percent of public school students.
“The Arizona tax credit program, at a fraction of the public school cost per student, has produced students with demonstrably better civic values,” Dr. Ladner writes. “The ability of private choice should be greatly expanded as a part of a comprehensive education improvement strategy.”
According to a 2008 report by the North Carolina Education Alliance (NCEA), education tax incentive programs in states like Arizona, Florida and Pennsylvania have saved these states $204 million since the programs began. The NCEA report states that education tax credit programs, such as tax credit scholarships, could potentially save North Carolina millions of dollars a year because they cost less than what it takes to educate a student in a public school. The NCEA report also noted that education tax credit programs are “consistent with North Carolina’s tax laws,” which already offer parents various tax incentives, including deductions for childcare and charitable contributions. It also argues that an education tax credit program in North Carolina is constitutional, noting that similar state programs “have been upheld as constitutional by state supreme courts and the U.S. Supreme Court.”
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