“If your kid is currently in a private school, you don’t qualify for a voucher, and there’s a lot of people very concerned about that aspect because there’s a fairness issue there,” Sen. Carlin Yoder, R-Goshen, told a South Bend TV station in 2011, when the General Assembly created a $1,000-per-child tax deduction to pacify parents paying full tuition at private schools.
But the fairness issue today could be raised by parents of public school students. As voucher participation grows, the number of students attending private schools at taxpayer expense has grown from 3,911 to more than 29,000, including an increasing number of students who never attended public school. While their families qualify for a generous tax break, the families of children in public schools do not.
There is no income limit on the tax break, so it is available even to the wealthiest taxpayers sending children to the most costly private schools. A middle-income family sending children to a public school and paying hundreds of dollars in textbook fees, however, is out of luck. StateImpact Indiana reported last year that educational material fees for “free” public schools amounted to about $100 per student.
For fairness’ sake, it’s time to reexamine the tax deduction carved out for families who increasingly are benefiting from taxpayer-supported schools.