At this week’s meeting of the Manhattan Beach Neighborhood Association, attendees raised several questions about Congressman Bob Turner’s latest legislation: the TEACH Act, which offers families of private and religious school students a $5,000 tax break towards tuition.

Turner’s rep at the meeting, Mike Tracey, had trouble answering those questions.

To be fair, the representatives for legislators are not generally expected to know specifics about the bills and positions put forward by their bosses. They’re meant to be a conduit for channeling news from the legislator to local community groups, and forwarding questions and concerns back up the chain. Tracey, lest it be perceived that we’re attacking him, has always performed his job efficiently and with professionalism.

But we still thought the above video was interesting, as it shows concerns from residents who appear to be critical to the bill. One compared the break to the controversial school voucher system, another asked where the funds would come from, and a third pointed out that under the logic of this tax break, taxpayers with no children also deserve to pay less.

And while Tracey responded to the questions with “I’ll have to get back to you on that,” we decided to go higher up the chain and put the same questions to Bob Capano, Turner’s district director.

The questions and their answers are as follows:

If you don’t use a public school, you get a $5,000 tax credit? 

This will be a $5,000 tax credit per family, per year. If families send their children to a non-public school they would qualify for a tax credit up to $5,000 per family. Taxpayers filing a joint return or filing as an unmarried individual will receive a $5,000 tax credit. Taxpayers who are married filing a separate return will receive a $2,500 tax credit.

How does the congressman plan to make up for the lost revenue from the tax credits?

We will be working on the funding mechanisms as this bill and the budget process moves forward.

If a person doesn’t have children and so doesn’t cause a burden on the tax system, shouldn’t they be entitled to the tax credit?

The goal of this bill is to provide economic relief to parents who choose  to send their children to private or parochial schools.

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  • NSF

    I strongly oppose this measure.
    I don’t want my taxes for public schools to subsidize parents who send their children to private or religious schools. That’s
    why they are PRIVATE schools.

    Parents opt to send children to those for a “better” education or religious teaching and, therefore, should absorb the cost without any government
    assistance. If they want economic relief that’s what PUBLIC schools are for. 

    Isn’t ironic how the GOP chides
    Democrats for government interference when it doesn’t suit their agenda.
    However, in this case, since it does, they interfere with glee.

    • Comments

      Do you support using my taxes to subsidize people who choose to go to college (Education Tax Credit)?
      Do you support subsidizing people who choose to own a home (Mortgage Interest Tax Credit or First-Time Homebuyer Credit)?
      Do you support subsidizing people to choose to have children (Child Tax Credit)?
      Do you support subsidizing people that choose to adopt a child (Adoption Tax Credit)?
      How about people that choose to pay for child care (Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit)?
      What about subsidizing low income earners (Earned Income Tax Credit)?

      • levp

        “Another Republican president, Gerald Ford, signed it into law and President Ronald Reagan called it “the best anti-poverty, the best pro-family, the best job-creation measure to come out of Congress.”
        http://www.bankrate.com/financing/taxes/everyone-avoids-taxes/

        Why do you hate President Reagan?

      • bagels

        I support all of the above, however, I have a bit of a problem with public money being siphoned out of the public schools and into religious schools.

      • BOSB

        We’re all used to our government using tax law and entitlement programs (and I don’t count Medicare and Social Security as entitlement programs – I paid for those – but I digress) to effect policy and achieve national goals, including redistribution of wealth.  I guess those of us opposed to this particular proposal are against promoting religion/private education at the expense of the public welfare, not necessarily the overall practice of using tax law in this manner.  So your comment is really off-topic and irrelevant.

        Oh, and BTW, I have no objection to using *your* taxes for any of the purposes listed.

  • http://www.brucebrodinsky.com Bruce B

    Doesn’t it seem like this campaign has been going on for years? Time has slowed down!

  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/lisanne001 Lisanne!

    The funding losses will be made up by cutting social services, which only serve the undesirable class anyway. And as more deregulation occurs the cost of government will go down. When the Obama Health Plan is eradicated, along with Medcare and Medicaid the government won’t be stuck with the human cost of deregulation. And everything will be just fine.

    • Kman

      Your comment is offensive  in many ways. What is the “undesirable” class? Does it include individuals who have lost jobs in this economy through no fault of their own and must now depend safety net programs? Does it include seniors living on fixed incomes who depend on social security and Medicare to live? Does it include low income seniors afflicted with Alzheimer’s disease who depend on Medicaid for their very survival? Does it include service personnel with traumatic brain and other serious injuries that depend VA services? Does it include families that have lost everything in natural disasters such as hurricanes, tornadoes, and earthquakes? You propose eliminating important and successful social programs but offer no alternatives.What would happen to these and other unfortunate Americans in your scheme of things?  We are a great country in part because we are a compassionate and caring people. We do not abandon the needy. Come back here when you have some constructive alternatives to offer.

      • http://www.flickr.com/photos/lisanne001 Lisanne!

         I’m sorry, you missed the sarcasm here.

        • T. N.

          It’s amazing, I know, but in this vitriolic environment a comment like yours is all-too plausible. 

  • Coachedj

    And how  many bureaucrats will be hired to administer this program in the Education Dept.?  Oh wait, Republicans plan to eliminate the current Democrats  version of the Education dept., so I guess a new non-Education Dept. will be created to handle this program.

  • BOSB

    I have a great idea.  Let’s find a semi-defunct private/religious school that is still certified/licensed, and set up a billing factory: for $1K, parents can get a tuition bill in excess of $5K for their taxes, and send their kids to public school.  Everybody makes out!  But please, no one with a Russian-sounding surname should apply, because when the Feds finally bust us, I don’t want all the bigots to have a field day about “dem dam Russkis …”

    We can advertise in Sheepshead Bites!  If we promise Ned exclusive interviews after the bust, maybe he’ll give us a discount …

    • http://twitter.com/Lostinservice Lostinservice

      This is actually how many private colleges in the country operate. A group of investors will buy a college, along with it’s accreditation, for a sum of money, then take in lower income students who would otherwise not be accepted elsewhere (schools like U. of Phoenix).

      Now the college is private so they blow their tuition through the roof. Part of the tuition is covered by Federal Pell (up to 5500 I think) which goes to the corp that now owns the school. The remainder is paid by students taking out massive student loans from aggressive lenders (e.g. sallie mae, the largest lender).

      If the student defaults on the loan you’d assume the school is shit out of luck, right? Nope, student loans are federally secured, so neither the school, nor the “lender” (e.g. sallie mae again) loses a penny. Instead the federal gov’t, i.e. tax payers foot the bill.

      There is a simple fix for this problem, and why it hasn’t been implemented is beyond me, and that’s to not allow transfer of accreditation with school sale.

      • BOSB

        Nonono, your scam is old hat.  And the student gets screwed.  With my scam, there is no real school, the student/parent gets a big chunk of the money, and only the taxpayer gets screwed.  And let’s face it, if you are still paying taxes, you deserve to get screwed … 8-)

        • http://twitter.com/Lostinservice Lostinservice

          Notice how in your plan, the only victim is the taxpayer but it’s illegal? Where in the private college scam the victims are the student and the taxpayers, but it’s perfectly legal? How fucked up is that?

  • http://twitter.com/Lostinservice Lostinservice

    I just want to point something out because people seem to be misunderstanding what the 5k tax break is. Private school parents would pay 5k less in federal taxes.
    That means less revenue, and also why I asked the question at the meeting.

    It’s Storobin’s (and Fidler’s but for less money) plan to directly give private schools tax payer money.

    Both plans are absolutely terrible, but together they’re heinous.

  • Arnie K

    Congressman Turner’s representative was clearly ill-prepared and ill-equipped to discuss this legislation intelligently. The people are entitled to an honest discussion and debate concerning  this controversial bill. This was a lost opportunity for the Congressman and his staff to engage with his constituents on this important issue. I hope that the Congressman will hold community forums in which he can hear the concerns of his constituents.

    • http://www.nedberke.com Ned Berke

      As I say in the article, it’s fairly routine that the representatives do not know details of legislation beyond the bullet point lists they’ve been sent with. It just doesn’t normally end up online – but the standard answer from every rep, whether Democratic or Republic, national or local, is always “I’ll have to get back to you on that.” Perhaps now the congressman knows that Manhattan Beach has doubts about this legislation and will do exactly what you said. Only time will tell.

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