Monday, March 30, 2009

Robert Ford: the new face of the Sanford crowd

State Senator Robert Ford is one of the true characters of Southern politics. He always knows how to go out and get some money. Back in the 1990s, video poker was handing out money in various ways to anyone who supported it. Robert Ford was there. Now, that the Sanford/Howard Rich/SCRG crowd is handing out money to whomever supports funding private schools with public tax dollars, Robert Ford is on board. At least Ford does not claim to be a true conservative or true Republican.

Robert Ford is embracing the pseudo conservative concept of spending tax money on private schools by saying that it will help poor children. It is the same mantra that big government liberals use to get tax money every time. They are eager to spend that tax money, without even knowing if the program will work to solve the problem that they claim to want to solve.

Robert Ford and the RINOs who support his spending of taxpayer money on private education do not even pause to consider how their program really will not work. A $4000 tax credit for private school tuition will not empower poor children to go to private schools. In most private schools $4000 will not even cover a semester of tuition. Further, a family would have to have the money to spend in the first place during a year to file for the tax credit at the end of the year.

Also, a growing number of private schools are not too keen on the idea. Their student bodies are limited and many don’t have the capacity to accept new students. Further, there is concern that with government money eventually comes government regulation. That is what happened to private colleges and universities that accepted federal and state tuition assistance programs.

Also, public schools are obligated to provide educational opportunities for the most difficult of students. The physically and mentally challenged, the unruly, the mentally ill, all are to provided some sort of public education. So, if the parents of such a child could scrape up the money with the tax credit assistance, chances are most private schools would deny them admittance. Thus, their child would be left in the same public school with less money.

Then, there is the argument that the money should follow the child. Fair enough. If people have no children in public or private schools, can they be exempt from paying any taxes towards public schools or taxes for private school tuition tax credits? That is where the money should follow the child logic eventually flows to. (For those who think that notion is silly, remember that the TERI program was meant just for teachers but the courts ruled it had to apply to all participants in the state retirement system, and that nearly broke the state.)

Further, do those who support Ford’s bill really believe that it will lead in smaller government spending? Politicians and lobbyists will find a way to replace the money lost from the public education money spent on private school tax credits. Thus, we will have the status quo in public education plus a new government spending plan to assist private schools. It is baffling how so many who see the Earned Income Tax Credit as a government spending plan do not see a private school tuition tax credit as the same.

Even worse, it is a government spending plan that will not help those it claims it will and will do nothing to bring about the needed reforms to public education. It is fitting a liberal Democrat who seems to always be under the influence of the big money spenders of the day is heading the effort this year. It is telling that the Sanford crowd embraces him so eagerly. It seems a lot less about children and a lot more about getting campaign money.


  1. Only a very wealthy few in this state earn enough to owe enough in taxes to where they could benefit from a tax credit. In reality, tax credits are simply taxpayer-funded rebates for those who've already left public schools.

    I support vouchers, which would give every parent a chance to choose their child's school. But I also support putting teachers in charge of their schools, allowing each school to adapt its course offerings to the needs of it's customers (i.e. parents and children). We talk about competition, but only private schools are allowed to compete freely.

    School choice also offers no choice in many rural counties - so what does the SCRG crowd have to offer them?

    The reality is that vouchers can be an option, but those who think all you need is vouchers are dead wrong.

  2. Robert Ford is like Mark Sanford, both for sell and for making government bigger all the while telling you that they are not.

  3. Mr. Capps,

    You don't have to pay taxes to enjoy the tax credit. If you pay/owe $1,000.00 in taxes and get a $4,000.00 tax credit, you would get a refund of $3,000.00.


    I disagree with you on the voucher/tax credit issue. Our public schools in this area are pretty good, but most of the schools in this state are terrible. It isn't all the schools fault, if anything, it is the parents fault.

    With that being said , the parents in those districts that do care, have very few if any options. This may provide an option for those families that want to give their child an option. This is not for the "rich". It is indexed (if I am not mistaken) to 200% of the poverty index. Which, I think, would eliminate the tax credit for those making over $45k. Any of the SSO money that is not used for scholarships would go back to the general fund.

    This is market driven and certainly not an issue taken up by the typical "rino". Why is Robert Ford supporting this? I don't know. His reasoning is irrelevant. Changing a system that is broken is relevant.

    I could go on and on about the positives on this issue. When I have time, I may elaborate more.


  4. OK Rick, so you've still got to put the money up front. Since the families most in need of rescue from poor schools are poor who struggle to pay a light bill of $100 a month, how in the world are they going to be able to front tuition money?

    Either you are for real school choice for everyone, or you're not. This halfway stuff is chickenshit.

  5. Rick, one point I will make. Your comment to Earl proves my point about this being another government spending program. Even if someone does not pay taxes, they get a check. How is that different than the earned income tax credit that is correctly described by most conservatives as a government spending program?

  6. Some other points, Rick:

    How do you address the fact that private schools themselves are not really for this and that they can deny acceptance to a child, tax credit available or not?

    Also, I have re-make my point about future government regulation of private schools. The EAA taught me we better think how things play out long term. With the precedent set in private higher education, it has to be considered that ten or fifteen years from now some court will find that tuition tax credits amount to government money for private schools and opens the door for government regulation.

    I know such thoughts are not politically sexy. But, I would have never thought Governor Beasley's Educational Accountability Act would turn into the mess it is today. That taught me we have to think long term not about how folks who agree with us will interpret things, but how those who don't agree with us will when they get their chance.

    I guess you can blame that on my love of chess. I am always thinking two or three moves ahead.

  7. You are right, Earl. Some families will have a difficult time with this program. But, it will be something available to them that is not available now. No one is saying that anyone has to take advantage of this option.

    Folks who really want to do something for their children will make it happen. There are families that work second and third jobs to see that there Children get a good/better education. This may help some.

    It is not a cure all, but certainly better than the status quo.

  8. Brian,

    To your first comment ( I don't have time now for the second, but I will be back).

    This program isn't another government spending program. This is parents using their own money to pay for education. Now, yes some parents don't pay enough in to pay for their tax credit. Others, like your parents, my parents and even you are donors to the education system. You have no choice.

    I am not an expert at public education nor am I an expert on this subject. I do, however, see the merits of competition. Free markets and competition works!

    As I think I said earlier, this isn't a cure all. I think it will do a couple of things.

    1. possibly reduce class size in public schools. Educators should love this. It will allow the teachers more time to devote to those students that are behind.

    2. increase per pupil spending. If the state element follows the child, the federal and local money stays with the school system. If you keep two-thirds of the money and have less children then the per pupil spending goes up.

    3. less need for more public schools. That's right, less students means less overcrowding. Now, don't get me wrong, I don't think there will be a mass exodus from the public schools. But the potential to reduce overcrowding is there.

    I was educated in public schools through college, my wife was educated in public schools through grad school. My three children go to public schools.

    This proposed plan isn't for everyone. But, I think if you look at it objectively, you will find merit in it. We have continued down the same education path for years, and we are continually falling behind. We have to do something that will boast our graduation rate. This may or may not help. But, I am willing to give it a chance. What do we have to lose? We're already losing nearly half of our students through drop-out each year. Let's see if this will work.

  9. Brian,

    To address your last comment. This is a choice! Private schools and or parents will have the opportunity to accept or deny access. If the student is not accepted, then I assume they can continue in their current school or look for another choice. Same goes for the family, they can choose private, public or home schooling. Let's not forget, it is another choice.

    From what I understand, there are a few differences in a tax credit and a voucher. First of all, a voucher would eliminate the problem of paying up front. The voucher could be redeemed monthly, quarterly, or whenever. This could allow more government intervention or regulation than a tax credit. On the other hand, the government could eliminate the tax credit for individuals that go to a school that does not meet the standards that are required. It is not a perfect system. But, the free market will make it work or fail. If it fails then the public schools will be the way to go. If it works (and it will for some)then our children and state will be the benefactor.

    I look at this proposal like choosing Wal-Mart or K-Mart. The success of the program will depend on the product produced. If the private school does not produce a better product, then the student can go back to the public school.

    Brian, I don't have all the answers, actually, I have very few, but I believe that we should look at all proposals, and even enact a few. Jim Rex's public school choice sounds good, but has very little if any teeth. The proposal is very liberal about how they can determine if they have additional pupil space. Therefore, it will be very limited if not non-existent.

    If this proposal gets a few kids in our state out of failing schools and increases our graduation rates, it will be a success. If it does not succeed, then it will not continue to exist.