Tucson CitizenTucson Citizen

Cut ‘extras’ in tax credits to fund basic school needs

Citizen Staff Writer
Our Opinion

Arizona’s controversial tax credits program for schools could be suspended, as legislators eye every possible way to erase state budget deficits.

While we long have lamented the lopsided funding mechanism in this program, we also recognize its benefits to after-school and extracurricular programs such as music, art and sports.

With $125 million in cuts to K-12 public schools now proposed, however, a freeze of the tax-credits program suddenly appears more attractive.

Otherwise, essentials such as textbooks, computers and transportation could be slashed instead.

And while music, art and other programming do spur gains in academic achievement, kids must have the essential education before the extras.

That means a seat on the bus, a book for the class and computer access for studies, among other things.

Arizona already ranks 49th in the nation for per-pupil funding; it’s in 50th place in other school funding categories.

So it’s appalling to see legislators contemplating even more cuts to schools – whether in basics or in tax-credit programs.

That’s the nature of this atrocious economy, however, especially as lawmakers struggle to erase the current $1.6 billion deficit and prepare for the $3 billion shortfall for next fiscal year.

The state gave back more than $95 million in tax credits last year for contributions to schools.

So if that program is frozen this year or for the next two years, the money saved could ensure that Arizona school kids get textbooks, school bus rides and other essentials.

If the tax-credits program is suspended, it undoubtedly will be reinstated down the line. It is highly popular with Arizona’s conservatives because it pumps money into parochial and other private schools.

We believe use of tax dollars for private schools violates the state and U.S. Constitutions. But the program has prevailed in court challenges, so we’re probably stuck with it for the foreseeable future.

If the program is suspended, though, it should be reinstated only after it has been injected with basic fairness.

Private schools are permitted to receive far more tax credit dollars than public schools do: $500 from a single donor, for example, compared with only $200 for public schools.

And public schools – though starved for per-pupil funding – can use tax credit dollars only on extracurricular and after-school activities. Private schools don’t have that limitation.

For now, the state should suspend what it must to ensure that basic education needs are met. We regret losing extracurricular activities – but first things must come first.

A freeze on the tax credit program could get schools over the hump by ensuring funding for the very essentials.

Our Digital Archive

This blog page archives the entire digital archive of the Tucson Citizen from 1993 to 2009. It was gleaned from a database that was not intended to be displayed as a public web archive. Therefore, some of the text in some stories displays a little oddly. Also, this database did not contain any links to photos, so though the archive contains numerous captions for photos, there are no links to any of those photos.

There are more than 230,000 articles in this archive.

In TucsonCitizen.com Morgue, Part 1, we have preserved the Tucson Citizen newspaper's web archive from 2006 to 2009. To view those stories (all of which are duplicated here) go to Morgue Part 1

Search site | Terms of service