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Experts Gather To Debate the Merits of Tuition Tax Credits

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Washington--Fourteen scholars gathered here last week at an Education Department-supported seminar to examine the implications--economic, political, social, and legal--of the concept of offering parents a credit on their income taxes for payment of private-school tuition.

The day-long session, which included a series of discussions and a formal debate between Chester E. Finn Jr. of Vanderbilt University and Albert Shanker, president of the American Federation of Teachers, was believed to be the first federally-sponsored consideration of the controversial taxation idea.

The "tuition tax-credit" concept has gained the support this year of the Reagan Administration and many members of Congress.

In fact, the President sent a telegram to administrators of Roman Catholic schools, meeting in California last week, reiterating his commitment to tuition tax-credits and promising to press Congress for legislation next year. (See story on page 1.)

Other Groups Favor Proposal

Other private-education lobbying groups, including the National Christian Action Coalition and the National Jewish Commission on Law and Public Affairs, also support the proposal.

On the other hand, 41 national organizations--representing parents, school board members, labor-union members, school employees, and minorities--have formed the National Coalition for Public Education to fight enactment of the measure.

Participants in the seminar included researchers from leading colleges of education, government organizations, and think tanks. Their "working papers," analyzing the tax-credit proposal, were discussed during the seminar.

The sponsors included the National Institute of Education, The Institute for Research on Educational Finance and Governance at Stanford University, and the National School Finance Project--all funded by theel5lEducation Department.

The debate between Mr. Shanker, a fierce opponent of the tax-credit proposal, and Mr. Finn, who is a supporter of government funding for private schools, took place in the evening following the series of meetings.

Tuition Tax-Credit Bill

Mr. Finn, a former aide to Senator Daniel P. Moynihan, Democrat of New York, is partially responsible for writing a tuition tax-credit bill, S 550, sponsored by Senators Moynihan and Robert Packwood, Republican of Oregon.

That bill, perhaps the most well-publicized of the numerous private-school aid measures introduced this3year, would provide a refundable credit for 50 percent of tuition costs up to $500 in 1983, increasing to a maximum credit of $1,000 thereafter.

Neither the Packwood-Moynihan bill nor any of the similar measures has yet received specific Administration approval. Officials of the Treasury Department, which would administer a tuition tax-credit program, recently announced that a task force of representatives from several federal agencies would make a recommendation to the President on tuition tax-credit legislation.

Excerpts from 11 of the papers presented at the seminar begin below.

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