Day: December 5, 2017

The education consequences of electing Ted Cruz

 

As you may know, U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas is running for reelection next year, and he will claim to be representing your “best” interests in Washington on just about anything you want to hear, including education. Fortunately, of course, you don’t have to believe him, and you shouldn’t.

For one thing, Cruz voted for that awful tax bill the Senate passed last weekend. (So did Texas Sen. John Cornyn, but he isn’t facing the voters this cycle.) And to make the bill even worse, Cruz sponsored the anti-public education voucher amendment that was added to the measure.

Elections have consequences, folks, and if you are an educator who believed Cruz’s campaign malarkey and voted for him last time, you may want to avoid shooting yourself and your colleagues and students in the foot again next year.

Cruz’s voucher amendment, which passed on a tie-breaking vote by Vice President Mike Pence, would allow parents to spend as much as $10,000 a year from their special 529 college savings accounts to pay tuition at private K-12 schools. Cruz claimed his amendment would “expand options for parents” and “prioritize the education of the next generation of Americans.”

Baloney.

The new tax break, if it stays in the final version of the bill and becomes law, would primarily benefit wealthier parents while undermining public schools where the vast majority of children in Texas and other states will continue to be educated.

Another bad provision in the bill that could undermine public school funding would curtail the deduction of state and local taxes from the federal income tax returns that you file. The legislative majority in Texas already under-funds our public schools, and this added restriction on federal tax deductions could increase the political incentive of legislators to starve public education even more.

All in all, the Senate tax bill, like its House counterpart, is a blatant scheme to make the richest Americans richer and to heck with just about everyone else. Now, negotiators from the two chambers will meet, mostly in private, to try to reach a compromise to send to President Trump before the end of the year.

The overwhelming majority of Americans will be better off if the effort fails. But if there is going to be a tax bill, educators should demand that one Senate provision remain in the final bill. This provision would allow teachers to deduct as much as $500 a year from their federal income taxes for out-of-pocket expenses on school and classroom supplies.

The present deduction of $250 a year was wiped out in the House version of the bill.