Private Schools Column

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Minnesota's tuition tax deduction has had little effect on parents' decisions to send their children to private or public schools, according to the preliminary results of research presented late last month at the Institute for Research on Educational Finance and Governance at Stanford University.

"While exerting little effect on parental choice," the researchers, Linda Darling-Hammond and Sheila Nataraj Kirby write in "Public Policy and Private Choice: The Case of Minnesota," "the deduction disproportionately benefits private-school parents and higher-income and higher-educated households."

The Minnesota law allows parents an income-tax deduction of up to $1,190 for educational expenses at private or public elementary and secondary schools. Because the U.S. Supreme Court has upheld the constitutionality of the tax deduction, the Minnesota law has become a model for groups in other states that wish to promote aid to families with children in independent and parochial schools.

Although 30 percent of the 339 public-school parents surveyed said that they were "very likely" or "somewhat likely" to send their children to private schools under the state's tuition tax-deduction program, whether these householdswould make the transfer in reality is "debatable" primarily due to limitations of the tax-deducation program, the researchers found.

In order to take advantage of the deduction, households must pay taxes and itemize deductions. They also must be willing to assume direct costs for tuition and other expenses before they can recoup a small portion of these expenses at a much later date. In addition, there may be some confusion about the nature of the tax deduction, the researchers found. "The fact is that this is a deduction, not a tax credit, and the actual value will vary across households," according to their report.

The research was conducted by the Rand Corporation, a research organization based in Santa Monica, Calif., and was supported by a grant from the National Institute of Education.

The Archdiocese of Philadelphia last month received a $1-million grant from the J. Howard Pew Freedom Trust to reduce energy costs in its 13 high schools.

It is the second grant the archdiocese has received for such purposes from the Philadelphia foundation. A $5-million grant was awarded in 1981.

According to Barbara Gary, director of the Business Leadership Organized for Catholic schools, the funds will be used to improve the heating and electrical systems in the schools and to institute a regular maintenance program for the systems.

Improvements made with the initial grant already have cut energy costs by $300,000 in one year and will save the schools more than $2 million over the next five years, said Msgr. Paul Curran, vicar for Catholic education in Philadelphia.--cc

Vol. 04, Issue 11

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