The BOAST (Building Opportunities for All Students and Teachers) tuition tax credit bill (also known as the Maryland Education Tax Credit) is a voucher scheme that would shift public, taxpayer dollars into private schools. It has been introduced in various forms since 2006, but has been rejected by the General Assembly every time in the face of broad opposition, including MSEA, the NAACP, League of Women Voters, Maryland PTA, Maryland Association of Boards of Education, and others.
This perennial bill is based on a similar tuition tax credit program in Pennsylvania, where the cost to the state is currently $80 million. For more background on BOAST, read our 2013 white paper, "Rejecting BOAST, Vouchers, and Neo-Vouchers."
Subsidizing Private Education, at Taxpayers' Expense
Research in Arizona, Illinois, Georgia, and Pennsylvania shows that a majority of students receiving the tax credit benefit already attend private schools and that the programs have pushed private school tuition up. A RAND Corporation study concluded that tuition tax credits rarely benefit poor children.
The General Assembly—not private businesses—should decide where public tax dollars are allocated. It is the job of the elected General Assembly to target valuable state resources.
If enacted, private schools in Maryland would become dependent on state funding as is now the case in Pennsylvania and other states. The state cannot afford to fund two school systems: public and private.
Additionally, private schools that would benefit from a tuition tax credit program are not accountable to the public in the way that public schools are for teacher quality, student achievement, attendance, entrance policies, graduation and dropout rates, and other relevant criteria.
The BOAST Interim Study Report
In January 2012, the BOAST Interim Study Report was released. The Study Group was created and charged with identifying opportunities that would be created by, and risks that would be posed by, the enactment of BOAST, Senate Bill 315. The 2014 bill was almost identical to the bill studied in 2012. Numerous concerns were outlined in the report, including the significant potential fiscal impact of the bill and the lack of even minimal levels of fiscal or academic accountability for public dollars.
Sen. Madaleno, ACLU of Maryland, and Educators Call on Gov. Hogan to Withhold Funding for Private Schools
Earlier this week, the governor claimed the state is facing declining revenues in deciding to withhold $25 million that had been set aside for public schools, yet did not decide to hold back funding reserved for private schools. Sen. Madaleno, ACLU, and MSEA asked the governor to instead send the $5 million in taxpayer dollars to public schools to offset some of the damage from the cuts Gov. Hogan made earlier this week.
On January 27, Gov. Hogan's office released details on his 2016 proposals for education initiatives, including the same BOAST legislation he unsuccessfully introduced last year. Betty Weller, president of the Maryland State Education Association, made the following statement: