One aspect of the GOP tax plan that is getting a lot of attention from educators, parents and the Department of Education is the proposed 529 plan. At present, parents are able to use a 529 plan only to fund a grown child’s college education; however, the new tax bill would allow this plan to also be used to fund K-12 educational costs.
Following is an overview of the controversy surrounding this aspect of the tax bill as well as a peek into how it could help parents from all walks of life ditch the public school system for good.
Opponents of Betsy DeVos’s school choice agenda are quick to say that the tax bill will only benefit wealthy individuals who most likely already have their children in public schools. At the same time, these individuals note that any move to offer incentives for families that put their children in private schools encourages others to leave the public school system, thus reducing the amount of money flowing into public schools.
The fact that the tax bill currently eliminates a deduction that dedicated public school teachers commonly use to buy supplies for their students out of pocket is yet another point of controversy, as it adds to the feeling that the Department of Education doesn’t really care about the public school system.
On the other hand, other individuals have criticized the bill for not going further and offering substantial assistance to poor and lower-middle class families who would like to pull their children from failing public schools but do not have the financial resources to invest in a 529 plan.
While many states do not require a minimum investment in such a plan or only require a small sum such as $25 or $50 to start off the plan, there are a number of states that require a minimum investment of up to $250. Furthermore, many families simply do not save enough money every month to make ongoing significant contributions to a 529 plan in order to increase the money for future use.
At the same time, many conservatives are praising the bill, noting that it could help many middle class families who need just a bit of extra money to be able to afford to send their children to private school. If the bill passes in its current state, parents with a 529 plan would be able to withdraw up to $10,000 per year to pay for private education costs without having to pay taxes on the money that has been withdrawn.
While $10,000 may seem like a paltry sum of money compared to the high cost of tuition in some private schools, experts note that there are many surprisingly affordable private school options where $10,000 per year could go a very long way.
Catholic private schools, for example, are known for offering a top quality education at a surprisingly affordable cost. The cost of annual tuition for many Christian and Jewish schools ranges from nearly $8,000 to just over $16,500 for older students. The median annual tuition cost for an elementary student at a private Montessori school is currently just over $8,500.
What is more, even seemingly expensive private schools are well within reach of middle and even lower class parents who apply for scholarships, ask upfront for discounted tuition rates and/or apply for state voucher programs that are available in about a dozen different states. When other forms of assistance are added to the extra income generated from a 529 plan, it is clear that public school advocates should be worried about concerned parents who may now have more choices for providing a top quality education for their children.
Naturally, the GOP tax bill is not without its flaws. The option of using a 529 plan to provide young children with a private school education is a great one; however, it’s one that should be available even to those who have a limited budget. Furthermore, making it hard for public school teachers to do their job is sure to be counterproductive.
At the same time, this bill has the potential to go a long way in helping families from all walks of life get their child a top notch education. Those who are considering a private school education for their children or teens will now have additional financial resources to add to potential scholarships and other forms of funding.
By offering parents an incentive to put their children in private schools, the government is potentially helping numerous children receive a high quality education that will benefit not only children and their families but also the entire country in years to come.
~ Christian Patriot Daily