Thursday, March 16, 2017

HB1222 and Doing Well by Doing Good

I don't have time to connect the dots, but the dots themselves are very interesting. The Arkansas Legislature is debating whether or not they should pass a bill which would allow corporations (like Wal-Mart for example) to get a tax credit for up to 65% of what they give to "non-profit" organizations which will administer a scholarship program with the money. It starts with a small total possible contribution level at first, but the sky is the limit in coming years. Combine the tax credit with tax deductions possible on the federal level and basically the company would re-direct almost all of their state tax dollars into the scholarship program or potential federal tax breaks.

So far no real injustice done. Sure the public schools will grouse about losing the money, but if they are not educating the children, if the children are in a private school funded with this scholarship money, then why should the public school get the money for that child? That said, I would rather rebuild strong public schools which were really locally controlled than have vouchers where as a practical matter the "choices" offered were not locally controlled. Does your "choice" of health insurance company do you any good in an environment where central government micromanages your "choices"? Well it won't be any better when they do it in education.

I think kids and parents are better off when they are not just consumers of a limited array of products but rather participants and stakeholders with real say in what their children's education looks like.  But I digress, let me show you something else...

That is a org chart put together by some folks in Colorado who noted uncomfortable ties between Wal-Mart heir James Walton and some proposed charter schools. It seems like they were mixing profit and non-profit schools in the same facility- leading to a situation where the non-profit could be expending funds in a way that could bolster the profit side, and they proposed to have a landlord which turned out to not be a non-profit at all but rather an LLC run by a board with connections to the school board. IOW, all the profits could be hidden as rent payments.

Taxpayers spend an enormous amount of money on schools. Some of them are doing well, but others are not. I think that corporate America has been looking for places where there is money to take and they noticed schools had a lot of money. I see a situation here where Wal-Mart gets tax credits for its donations to a "non-profit" which is funded by the Walton Foundation  who then steers scholarship recipients into schools which are owned by other Walton interests. I.E. Wal-Mart's tax dollars don't go into the general treasury, they get "donated" to a fund which then largely spends it on schools owned by some of Wal-Mart's biggest stockholders. It would be like you being able to direct most of your tax money into a fund to buy things from your own business! I wish I had time to fill in more of the blanks. Any full time journalists out there want to take this one on?

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