Maryland is on the verge of enacting a trailblazing expansion of educational freedom.
The Maryland Education Tax Credit would grant tax credits worth 60 percent of donations to nonprofit scholarship organizations that help low-income families cover certain educational expenses. Were it to become law, Maryland would become the second state, following New Hampshire, to allow families to use tax-credit scholarship funds on a wide variety of educational expenses beyond tuition, such as tutoring, books, education-related technology, transportation, and special-needs services. The legislation has some flaws–for example, eligible schools cannot charge tuition higher than the statewide average per pupil expenditure at district schools–but it still represents a significant step in the right direction.
Unfortunately, the proposal might not get an up-or-down vote in the legislature. Today, the Baltimore Sun reports that Maryland Speaker of the House Michael E. Busch opposes the school choice proposal because Maryland’s assigned schools are not “fully funded”:
“It’s hard for the legislature to fund private religious schools when Governor Hogan fails to fully fund the public education system,” said Busch, an Anne Arundel County Democrat.
There are numerous mistaken assumptions in that statement–tax credits are not government appropriations; parents can use the scholarships at religious or secular schools; scholarship tax credits generally produce fiscal savings by reducing expenditures more than tax revenue, etc.–but the claim that Maryland’s district schools are not fully funded raises the question: what does “fully funded” mean?