Sen. Melvin and the current legislative majority have cut $277 million out of Arizona's public schools. So, I must say, that Melvin's 'Help our schools, and your wallet' is the worst example of political spin I have ever read.
Mr. Melvin presents himself as someone who cares about public education while he continues to vote in favor of dismantling Arizona's public schools.
The School Tax Credit is a subject ripe for spin as it hits the hot buttons of education, children and taxes. What more could a spin-doctor ask for?
It's time for the facts.
Since 1997 Arizona has diverted over $350 million public dollars to private and religious schools through the Private School Tax Credit program. Here is what Mr. Melvin and the public school opponents created:
There is a huge discrepancy between what a taxpayer can donate to a public school vs. a private/religious school. You can donate $500 to a private / religious school, but only $200 to a public school.
Public school donations are for after-school programs only; private / religious schools can use the donations for direct school expenses.
One hundred percent of public school donations go directly to the school; private / religious school payments are made to Student Tax Organizations. There is no required state oversight of STOs, and STOs can keep 10 percent of your donation for so-called administrative costs.
It gets worse: There is no financial litmus test as to whether the child is in financial need of scholarship assistance to the private or religious school, and the state's largest STO was co-founded by a Republican state representative.
It's time to demand accountability from every elected official who supports the Private School Tax Credit programs. Ask them:
• Do you believe that a strong public school system is vital to the health of Arizona? (Don't settle for 'education is important.' Do they say that public education is important?)
• How is a loss of $350 million to Arizona's general fund a positive?
• The Private School Tax Credit program has been called a "backdoor voucher" program because it allows taxpayer money to pay for private / religious schools. What is your opinion?
As 2010 rolls around, I hope each voter will make a New Year's resolution to become investigative reporters in our own back yards. Let's demand the facts and hold our representatives accountable for the statements they put forth.
Visit: www.azdor.gov to read the specifics of the credits.
Read: 'Rigged Privilege' (Tribune investigation into Arizona's private school tax credits. Published Aug. 2, 2009.)
Google: 'Private school tax credits, Arizona' to read varying opinions. Please note: look for info from a journalistic source, not simply a partisan group (either pro or con).
Call: Your state representatives. Have them explain, with specific facts, why they support or do not support these tax credits.
Cheryl Cage is a business owner and candidate for the Arizona State Senate in LD-26.