If you think Governor Jindal rapidly pushed through his gold standard reform legislation - HB 976 and HB 974 - just so he could get his reform agenda out of the way, think again!!! The strategy all along has been to create as much attention and tension as we could muster on these two bills then quietly filter through some even more egregious legislation under the radar.

Yesterday, the Senate Revenue and Fiscal Affairs Committee gave its blessing to HB 969 which will allow the state to reimburse private citizens and corporations that contribute to nonprofit groups that award tuition grants. A 9-2 vote sent the measure, modeled after a Florida law that Governor Jeb Bush signed a decade ago, to the Senate floor. (so how's that going for Florida? See my next post.)

Senator Talbot's bill would allow corporations and individuals to give UNLIMITED AMOUNTS of money to independent, nonprofit groups that would, in turn, grant private-school tuition scholarships to students who live in households at or below 250 per-cent of the federal poverty level ($55,000 for a family of four). The contributor would receive a rebate, paid from the state general fund equivalent to the amount paid in tuition. The scholarship-granting entity would be able to keep up to 5% for "administrative" costs. The contribution would reduce the filer's taxable income.

Did you get that? Scholarship-granting entities. I can't wait to see the creative names identifying such entities. Can the public really buy the concept of opening up a storefront, collecting money, sending it to BESE/LDOE (who has sole authority to award vouchers) and depositing 5% in their checking account. Wonder how many of these "voucher-mats" will launder this money through out-of-state banks!

Senator Talbot sells his bill as a way to encourage community organizations and citizens to invest in private-school scholarships with the public covering the tab on the back end.

Talbot told senators that his model would save the state money and was not intended to give "any financial benefit" to rebate recipients, given that donors would offset any initial tax deduction by claiming the rebate as income.

To make this scheme even more difficult for the average taxpaying citizen to understand or trace, under Talbot's plan, aid for kindergarten through the eighth grade would be capped at 80% of the state portion of the Minimum Foundation Program per-pupil financing formula and 90% for high school. The MFP-based voucher plan that has already passed the Legislature (HB 976) allows grants up to the TOTAL STATE AND LOCAL financing amount as dictated by the MFP.

DID YOU GET THAT FOLKS? Money collected by LOCAL SCHOOL DISTRICTS through millages supported by local taxpayers dedicated for specific purposes to fund their local public schools will be used to pay for vouchers.

In passing HB 976, some legislators attempted to convince opponents that since there would be no "transfer" of funds from the district to the State, that local funds would not be used. In fact, district funds NEVER WERE transferred to the state. MFP funds sent to districts by the state are calculated based on a complex mathematical formula that considers and includes the amount of local funds districts are able to collect. Under this bill, the amount of those local funds will be deducted from the STATE portion of MFP that is sent to the district. Although the exact method of voucher funding calculation HAS NOT BEEN CLARIFIED, we know (for example) that if a voucher (tuition) is $5,000 and a district per-pupil MFP state portion is $4,000, the additional $1,000 will be deducted from the total state MFP dollars sent to the district. HB 976 allows grants up to the total state and local financing amount dictated by the MFP. If anyone can explain that better or identify an error in this explanation - PLEASE DO!!!

Another BOGUS selling point by Talbot and other proponents of the voucher scheme is that rebates would cost less than educating the students in public schools. That claim comes with a great deal of number distortion, manipulation and just plain ignorance of the MFP formula. It should also be noted that a legislative fiscal analysis said a Florida program has found that between 5% and 10% of the grant recipients never would have attended public schools in the first place.

In response to objections that private schools receiving the voucher students would have no accountability regarding student outcomes, Jindal's main minion Ms. Palmieri said,
"We're not trying to turn private schools into public schools."
REALLY Ms. Palmieri? We KNOW that you are trying to turn public schools into PRIVATE SCHOOLS!

In his opposing comments, Senator Dale Erdey, R-Livingston (thank you Sen. Erdey) asked Talbot why the tax code does not offer a direct inventive for individuals and business to offer direct support to public schools. He said,
"This bill is about helping a select group of schools that are not public."

Talbot responded with a statement that provides yet more proof of the REAL agenda:
"I view it as helping a select group of students."

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