G.I.’s Ladner sets up straw man, shoots it down

by David Safier

You know, it's possible to have a reasonable debate about whether we should have tuition tax credits for private school scholarships. I acknowledge that intelligent, knowledgeable people can disagree with my point of view that we should get rid of the things.

But Matthew Ladner of the Goldwater Institute decides not to take a reasonable position in his latest Daily Email. As usual, he picks and chooses his facts, figures and analysis for maximum impact.

Vicki E. Murray, Ph.D., of the Pacific Research Institute put out a paper whose purpose is to debunk the reporting by the East Valley Trib on tuition tax credits in its Rigged Privilege series, as well as similar reporting in the Republic. (Notice I'm not mentioning the Star here? Nothing but crickets on the subject from Tucson's only daily. Sigh.)

It's worth noting that the Pacific Research Institute states its mission is "to champion freedom, opportunity, and personal responsibility for all individuals by advancing free-market policy solutions." And Murray is a champion of "School Choice." Anyone reading her analysis should be aware of her bias.

Murray's study finds that over half of families who get tuition scholarships from School Tuition Organizations (STOs) have incomes below the Arizona average. That seems reasonable, so I'm not doubting her findings.

Here's how Ladner sets up the argument:

Those who oppose parental choice often claim the tuition tax credit only benefits children from wealthy families.

No reasonable person has ever claimed the STO scholarships only go to children of wealthy families. No one. The claim is that lots of the backdoor voucher money goes to wealthy families, sometimes paying 100% of rich kids' tuitions at high priced private schools.

Here's an accurate summary of Murray's findings from Ladner:

More than two-thirds of the families’ incomes would qualify them for Arizona’s corporate income tax-credit scholarship program, which is limited to $75,467 or less for a family of four.

Let me put that another way. One out of three families getting the STO money wouldn't qualify for the corporate tax-credit scholarship program. That means, if it's a family of four, it makes over $75,467. That's a lot of income for someone getting a state funded scholarship to private school, and that description fits one out of three recipients.

It looks like Murray pulled together lots of data for this report. It would be helpful to see the raw data to find out how many of the top one-third of scholarship recipients come from families that make $150,000, or $250,000, or $500,000. Murray has the data, but she doesn't share it with us.

Matthew Ladner has said in the past that he thinks the STO scholarships should be means tested. He could use Murray's data to strengthen his point, but of course he doesn't. As usual, he's only interested in putting together propaganda that fits his purposes.

One response to “G.I.’s Ladner sets up straw man, shoots it down

  1. Murray is also a former director (they are all directors of something) at the Goldwater Institute. Funny, he doesn’t mention that.