Tax Savings for K-12 Tuition Riles Public School Advocates

(Bloomberg) -- A pair of provisions in the final version of the Republican tax overhaul proposal would be a boon to private schools, but risks reducing local funds for public schools, according education advocates.

One provision would expand tax-free 529 accounts to let families save money for a child’s elementary and secondary education, in addition to college. That would create tax incentives to pay tuition for private or religious schools, and would mostly benefit affluent families that have disposable income to contribute to these accounts, said Chris Marsicano, a PhD candidate at Vanderbuilt University studying education policy.

Public schools, on the other hand, stand to lose resources as the Republican bill also caps deductions for state and local taxes at $10,000. The effect would be limiting a federal subsidy for public schools and introducing a new subsidy for private alternatives, Marsicano said.

The measure, championed by Texas Republican Senator Ted Cruz, was opposed by public school advocates, including the National Education Association, the national teachers union.

This provision “reveals the ill-conceived and misguided priorities of Republican leaders in Washington,” NEA President Lily Eskelsen García said in a statement. “Expanding education tax loopholes in order for wealthy families to stash away money for private school will hurt neighborhood public schools and students.”

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