From the Dirksen Senate Office Building
on Capitol Hill, The Advocates. Tonight's question, "Should The Federal
Government Give Tax Credits To Help Pay For School Tuition?" Arguing in
favor is Antonin Scalia, Professor of Law at the University of Chicago.
Appearing as witnesses for Professor Scalia are Senator S. I. Hayakawa, a
republican from California, and Walter Williams, an economist at Temple
University. Arguing against the proposal is William Van Alstyne, Professor
of Constitutional Law at Duke University. Appearing as witnesses for
Professor Van Alstyne are Congressman Paul Simon, a democrat from Illinois,
and Albert Shanker, President of the United Federation of
Good evening and welcome to The
Advocates. Tonight we are in Washington to examine the Packwood-Moynihan
Tuition-Tax Credit Bill to provide financial relief to those who pay tuition
to colleges and to primary and secondary schools. Specifically, our question
is "Should the Federal Government Give Tax Credits To Help Pay For School
Tuition?" Advocate Antonin Scalia says, yes.
The average American finds it tremendously difficult to meet the
costs of college education, and at the elementary and secondary school level
for the vast majority of our citizens, the only way to send their children
to a different school is to move to a different neighborhood. The
tuition-tax credit is meant to meet both of these problems. Its implications
for the future of freedom and of educational excellence are enormous. With
me this evening to discuss these issues are Senator S. I. Hayakawa and
economist Walter Williams.
Van Alstyne says, no.
gentlemen, the Packwood-Moynihan Bill in fact is simply a political hoax. In
higher education it will have the net effect of shifting federal support
from those who most need it and indiscriminately subsidize those who need it
not at all. In primary and secondary education, as you will see tonight, it
would damage our public schools, subsidize religion in parochial schools
and, frankly, encourage a new racial re-segregation in the United States.
With me to demonstrate the truth of those propositions tonight are the
Honorable Paul Simon, Congressman from Illinois, and Mr. Albert Shanker, the
President of the American Federation of Teachers.
Thank you. The Packwood-Moynihan Tuition-Tax Credit would allow
parents or students to subtract money from their federal taxes, based on the
amount of school tuition they pay. The tax credit would be for half the
tuition - a maximum of $500 by 1980. There would be a cash refund if the tax
credit proved greater than the amount of taxes owed. This year only payments
for college and post-secondary vocational school tuition would be included.
By 1980, tuition to private, elementary and secondary schools would be
added. President Carter is against any form of tuition-tax credit and has
proposed instead an expansion of current grant and scholarship programs.
Despite constitutional difficulties and a promised presidential veto, there
is unprecedented support for a tax credit here on Capitol Hill. The
Packwood-Moynihan proposal will soon come before the Senate where 50
Senators, democrats and republicans, are co-sponsors of the measure. For the
first time in history, the House of Representatives is considering its own
formula for tuition-tax relief. The House version currently does not include
tax credits for primary and secondary schools, though funds have been set
aside for such credits if they are added in the final bill. The
constitutional issues raised by the tuition-tax credit center on the primary
and secondary schools. The vast majority of private schools are
church-related. We will not attempt to debate the constitutional issues here
tonight. Here we are going to ask whether it's advisable to Congress to pass
tuition-tax credit legislation. Will tuition-tax credits provide financial
aid for the people who need it? Will they encourage a wider choice of
education for Americans? Will they damage public education? And so, the
question "Should The Federal Government Give Tax Credits To Help Pay For
School Tuition?" Mr. Scalia, the floor is yours.
Thank you. The first issue posed by the tuition-tax credit proposal
is whether we will come to the aid of the middle-class American who is being
priced and taxed out of the college market. And if so, whether we will do it
through an additional program managed by the educational bureaucracy or
rather through the simpler means of placing additional funds at the
individual's disposal. The second issue, at the elementary and secondary
school level, is whether we will continue the policy of helping parents to
educate their children only by paying the costs of their children in a
public school, on a take-it-or-leave-it basis. Or, whether we will rather
enable them to obtain some assistance in another form -by giving them funds
to spend at any accredited school which they think desirable. The
tuition-tax credit will benefit the parents whose freedom of choice is
enhanced, the taxpayer who at a relatively small cost is saved the expense
of additional students on the public school rolls, and the public schools
themselves which will improve from the challenge of competition. I call as
my first witness, Senator S. I. Hayakawa.
Senator Hayakawa, welcome to The Advocates.
Senator, would you tell us why it is that you support the tuition-tax credit
form of relief rather than some sort of relief through a tax deduction or
through a federal grant program?
believe that tuition-tax credit will help all taxpayers with the cost of
college tuition at both public and private colleges and universities, and
this is the cost which the average citizen finds increasingly difficult to
bear. And I want to help reduce to a small degree the enormous disparity
that now exists between the amount of help the public gives the pupil and
the parents of the pupil in the private and public schools as opposed to the
almost no help that they get for students in the, ah, private
The administration has as you know
a proposal which, ah, is, has been brought forward in, ah, in opposition to
the tuition-tax credit proposal, which would provide aid through, ah,
federal grant programs. Why do you prefer the tuition-tax system to
The, ah, grant program involves an
enormous amount of bureaucracy and paperwork to, first of all, to establish
the fact that an individual is entitled to it and then to, to ah,
investigate that individual and find out the degree to which, ah, help is,
is justified. And, there, as I say it's a bureaucratic nightmare and we've
got already an enormous number of them in education required by the federal
government. The tuition-tax credit is a very, very simple thing. It's just
one line in your income tax return that you can fill out for yourself and
you don't have to have an enormous bureaucracy to, to implement this whole
program. And this is one of the reasons I say, as I am an opponent of
increasing bureaucracy in the government, I would favor the tuition-tax
credit. It's a simple way of helping everybody.
Senator, what, why is it that you believe that there is a need for
some assistance, ah, particularly at the college level?
Well, I taught at San Francisco State University
where a majority of our students, ah, support themselves while they're in
school. That is, they work as waiters and bartenders and maintenance people
and so on, and the moment they're through classes, they go out into the
world to help, to help get their way through school. And for these students
of modest income, and some of them are downright poor, the tuition-tax
credit would apply to their own income rather than that of their parents.
And this is something that they need very very much to help them through
school. And of course they might go to private schools, but private schools
require an immediate larger outlay and so we will have the
publically-support state universities and junior colleges and the students
in them take advantage very very much of programs such as this. And it will
help the students in the long run because they will get a tax, ah, tax
credit as a result of all this.
the impact of the program on our public universities, Senator? You're a
former, ah, president of one of the, ah, great public universities in the
country. Don't you have some fears for the affect that this program would
have upon the health of the public universities?
Well, let's take a, a young man or young woman in San Francisco
or Alameda Counties, and he's got before him the possibility of going to,
let's say, Berkeley or San Francisco State or City College or Stanford. Now
if that individual is wor, ah, is dependent on parents to pay their way
through school, then they might very well go to Stanford and the parents
might get the advantage of the tuition-tax credit. But for the majority of
students, especially the middle-class and the poor students, they would tend
to go to City College or San Francisco, they would go to San Francisco
State, they would go to Menlo Junior College, etc., etc., and they would be
the ones who would benefit, the poor students would benefit most. And so
this tuition-tax credit, while it would be of some benefit to the parents of
students at Stanford, let's say, would be even more benefit to the students
at San Francisco State and City College.
All right, we'll have to go to Mr. Van Alstyne now for some questions to
as I understand the tax credit proposal, it provides $500 and not more than
50% of tuition and fees in college. Is that correct?
And that's the same amount irrespective of the need of the
individual and irrespective of his income. Is that also correct?
Yes, that's correct.
Is the figure that I've seen from the Congressional Budget Office
also correct - that the estimated initial cost of the full plan would take
place three years hence - would be not less than $5,000,000,000.
Yes, that's about right.
And is the Congressional Budget Office also correct in
advising Congress, as I believe it did on May 6, that at least $25,000,000
would go to individuals whose annual income is in excess of $100,000 a year.
In short, there is absolutely no need and no income or no means test
provided by this tax credit measure whatever. Is that correct?
Well, look. Tell me what the Congressional Budget
Office said, according to the figure you just quoted.
Yes, I'll restate it. That of the
$5,000,000,000, at least $25,000,000 would go to individuals whose own
personal annual income exceeds $100,000 a year. The figure gets larger if we
drop even down to $75,000. And likewise, even though the person has
virtually no income, they cannot get more than $500 assistance under this
particular program. It's just a flat shot, irrespective of need and
irrespective of lack of need. Is that correct?
That, it is irrespective of need and irrespective of lack of
need, but the people who are most affected by this are the people of low
income and they're, they're the people, ah, the 80% of the students whose
parents earn less than $30,000. In fact, something like 40% of them whose
parents earn less than $15,000. And what I am particularly interested in are
not parents at all, but the students who are working their own way through
college. And what parents may benefit from this program is almost irrelevant
because it does so much good to the students themselves at the college
Well, I, I...
They do work their way through college and they're
exactly the people I'm trying to help.
I, I think I understand you, Senator. I think I understand. Indeed
I sympathize with your converging concern with mine on those/need is
greatest. Yet that need can only be met to the extent of $500 here. Are you
aware of the fact that under the existing Basic Educational Opportunity
...that already exists, an individual student
with demonstrable need which they're willing to demonstrate by filling in a
form which indicates that need, can secure up to $1,600 in grants.
Yes, I'm perfectly aware of this. But
And loan funds are available
for middle-income groups, so that in fact, existing programs meet actual
need on a more graduated and sensitive basis than this flat giveaway shot.
Is that not accurate?
But the, the very
very important point that I wish to make by all this is that that $500
credit to a student working his way through, through college is far more
important than whatever $500 may mean to, let us say, a millionaire parent.
And so it doesn't matter. That millionaire parent represents a very very
tiny proportion of the parents who would benefit by it. The important group
that would be benefited by it, as I say, are the young people who are
working their way through school.
see. And, and if you're...
the people I'm interested in at this point. Especially if you're going to
talk about the college and university students.
Whether they need it or not and regardless of whether they may
need more, and whether or not existing programs or those as the President
This would be a
...will take care of
middle-income groups according to need, partly by grants and partly by
loans. It's just all lagniappe; gravy on top of that, Senator.
Well, what do, I am sufficiently.
...acquainted with the young people to know that they do have a terrible
And if they, if they do get grant or scholarships
in addition to this, good luck to them. But I do see the struggle of
students going through college daily. Have seen it daily...
Well, I think our differences are clear enough
on this, Senator. May I ask you something else? You suggested at least one
virtue of this plan would be administrative simplification - the elimination
...ah, my understanding is that nothing in this
bill presumes to eliminate or to reduce any of the existing programs, and it
is my understanding moreover that the Department of Treasury has testified
before the Senate that this will reduce no administrative personnel, but
will impose upon the treasury the requirement of a new bureaucracy in order
to monitor this system. It only adds personnel. Is that not what you've been
told by the treasury?
I'm sorry, Senator.
That was a long question. We'll need a very short answer.
My understanding is that it'll add enormously to
the time and effort required of parents.
And of the treasury?
no more questions. We'll have to go to Mr. Scalia for another question for
Senator, if we're, if
we're, ah, engaging in asking you to confirm, ah, statistics, is it correct
that 85% of the benefits under this bill will go to those with incomes below
$30,000? And is it correct that this bill will aid 1,486,000 families below
$10,000's income, whereas the administration proposal, would, would aid only
This is my
Mr. Van Alstyne, now you get one
I can't put it in the
form of a question, except to suggest that would you appreciate that other
people's understandings of those particular figures might be in substantial
disagreement? Very substantial, Senator.
Insofar as I've disagreed with many of your figures too, I think we can all
be in disagreement about the figures.
Thank you. Senator Hayakawa, thank you for joining us on The Advocates.
I call my second
witness, ah, Mr. Walter Williams. Mr. Williams is an economist from Temple
Mr. Williams, welcome to The
Mr. Williams, I would
appreciate your telling us what you conceive to be what might be called the
societal effects of the tuition-tax credit proposals.
I think basically the, ah, tuition-tax credit will
introduce competition in our system and break the present monopoly that the
educational establishment has over the education of, ah, of students. And I
think also it will perhaps change the sad state of affairs for minority
education, where the educational establishment is giving these students, ah,
fraudulent diplomas. That is, they graduate from these schools three to five
years behind the national norm. I think that this is the primary
beneficiary, ah bene, beneficiaries of the tuition-tax credit. The
working-class poor and particularly the minority poor.
But we're only talking about a, a maximum credit of
$500. How can that possibly have those effects?
Well, ah, it, the $500 may have very very little effect on
millionaires, ah, in terms of their decisions to opt out of the public
education system. But however, for poor people who face, ah, tuitions at
Catholic schools or Black Muslim schools in the, ah, neighborhood of $3 or
$600, $500 can make a substantial contribution, ah, to their effort to up
upgrade the quality of education for their children.
Wouldn't the proposal, Mr. Williams, ah, further the
segregation of our schools?
of all, I think that tuition-tax credit, ah, would not go to schools that,
ah ah, had segregation provisions in their admissions policy. But ah,
furthermore, I think that, ah, if one asked the question of, would our
schools be more segregated, I can't see how they can become more segregated
than they are today. That is, racially homogenous. Ah, and then furthermore,
in terms of the whole integration issue, I think that it is a, is a racial
insult, ah, for people to say that the only way that blacks can achieve
academic excellence is to go out and capture some white kids to sit
Mr. Williams, what, what are the
figures on the, on the degree of integration, ah in, in the public school
Well in the public schools, ah
ah, 50% of the black children go to schools that are 95% black,
Fifty percent go to schools that are
Yes. And, whereby - in some
of the, ah, Catholic schools and, ah, the private schools, particularly
let's say, in Manhattan, 75% of the student population of some the Catholic
schools are minority. And in Chicago, ah, some schools, Catholic schools,
ah, up to 70% of the student population are minority.
Why isn't the administrative, the administration's
alternative proposal better, Mr. Williams? They, they purport to, ah, to be
targeting their funds on the poor.
They show us that they have the poor
more at heart than does the tuition-tax credit proposal.
Well, well, there are two aspects to this
targeting. First of all, ah, ah, targeting is relatively meaningless. Ah,
that is, we spend, ah, over $100,000,000,000 a year in the United States,
justified in the name of poverty. And very interestingly that if you divided
the number of poor people into this amount, each poor family would get
$32,000 a year. Now, I feel as though that they don't, and I don't think
that they value the, ah, services that they receive for $32,000. So, the
middle-class in, through that targeted program is ripping-off something I
You think targeting tends
to have pretty bad aim...
thing with, ah, the ah, the Man, the administration's, ah. Manpower
programs. Most of the people who benefit from those are, ah, middle-class
people. But the administration's program, ah, is just more of the same
thing. Ah, that is, what we need to do is change the perverse set of
incentives in our educational system. That is, teachers receive their
salaries and get raises, whether the children can read or write.
Administrators get their salaries and raises, whether children can read or
write. And finally the children get their diplomas, whether they can read or
write. Now, the, essentially what has to be done is that we have to change
the incentives. That is, we have to provide parents with options to opt out
of the system. Now, some parents will choose those options to opt out of the
system, go to private schools. This will benefit even the parents who don't
because it will make public schools more competitive.
All right, now we'll go to Mr. Van Alstyne for some
questions for Mr. Williams.
Williams, you surprise me, I suppose, partly because my information is that
the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the Urban
League, the Urban Coalition, the American Civil Liberties Union, the
American Jewish Congress, the A. Philip Randolph Institute - virtually every
major civil rights organization in the United States is
Not, not the Congress for
And I'm pleased that you chose the example, because I want to
ask you some specific questions about our mutual understanding of the kinds
of schools in which this tax credit might legally be spent.
my understanding that CORE is a separatist movement, apart from the general
mainstream of the civil rights movement. It is my understanding…
That's your understanding, that's not
It is, it is and I want you,
by all means to have an opportunity.
...to redress that
understanding. It's my understanding as it is your's that the one federal
requirement that the school must observe it, is that there be no racial
exclusion at the admission level. It is also my understanding and if I'm
incorrect about this, I and the audience need help on it however - that the
very nature of the private school assures complete curricular dominance by
the private proprietors. In my part of the country, unlike yours, for
instance, as long as the admission policy is technically open to anybody, it
can be a thoroughly racist school...
What is the question?
My question is, is that not correct? Are not such schools completely
eligible and can you not therefore anticipate a re-segregation of society,
to the extent that schools are deliberately structured to play exactly to
those kinds of separatists movements in this country?
Ah, no, ah, well, first of all the schools are
already racially homogeneous. Now, ah, I think that the tuition-tax credit
would, ah, foster in, integration in our society. That is, many parents both
Do you think so in my part
of the country?
Listen, I'm answering
Listen, both black and white, they leave the
center cities because they're concerned about the education of their
children. Now, those parents who are highly concerned about the education of
the, their children, they, with a higher quality school system in our
cities, they would not flee out to the suburbs. And hence there's the
prospect for greater integration. And in fact the schools that are
non-public actually are more integrated than the public schools in
Let me ask you this, if I
may, Mr. Williams. You talked about these schools providing fairer
competition. As an economist, I take it you would recognize that means that
they would have to be performing equivalent services. I'm sure you
I would hope that they don't
perform equivalent services.
you're quite right, because by state law the public schools will continue to
educate disadvantaged students. By state law they will continue to provide
health services. By state law they will take educationally disadvantaged
students. None of the schools you're talking about have any legal duty to
perform that service.
Therefore they may operate
on the cheap, may they not, and.
...unfairly compete with
the public schools.
Well, there are
... in terms of the
public service they provide.
are rich schools....
Is that correct
There are rich schools that
take the disadvantaged student. That is, many rich parents send their kids
to military academies because they have disciplinary-type problems. Now,
with the, ah, tuition-tax credit, we expect an evolution of schools. That
is, sch, there won't be schools just to skim the cream of the crop. There'll
be schools to handle the very very troublesome student and this is what we
need. One thing that we need is more diversity in the education structure,
structure. We cannot provide the same thing for every student. Now, in terms
of minority students, what, ah ah, the educational establishment is saying,
is saying that no minority students shall receive academic excellence until
we all can. Maybe that's twenty years from now. I think that's a very very
high cost to impose on the individual child. I think it's very arrogant of
the educational establishment.
understand, of course, that nothing in the bill controls the character of
the educational program that will be provided in those schools at
No. I tell you what, what does
Is that correct or
...it is the, it is
Could you confine yourself to
my question sometime, please.
I am, I
am. It is the schools pursuing their own interest that is.
...the profit incentive and that will make them accountable to
Forgive me, Mr. Williams.
Are you of the misapprehension that a school can be operated for a profit
and qualify? That is the only other thing disallowed by this law according
to my understanding. Am I mistaken in that regard?
No, I'm, I'm saying that...
I beg your pardon.
...it introduces accountability in the system, whether it be by
profits or whether it be by larger salaries or more influence or reputation
I have just one...last
It introduces accountability
in the system where the public school system doesn't, is not accountable to
I'm sorry, Mr. Van Alstyne, one
question from Mr. Scalia, please.
Williams, if you were to select out of all the available devices some device
that would assure as much as possible racial and socioeconomic homogeneity
in a school, could you think of anything any better than, than a mandatory
Ah, I, I couldn't
think of anything better and furthermore I can't think of, I mean you know,
if one looks at SAT scores and the performance particularly of minority
children, one would think that either blacks are genetically inferior or
that the Ku Klux Klan was the superintendent of schools. Obviously neither
is the case, but nonetheless we have these results.
All right, Mr. Van Alstyne, we can have your
I have another
question. It's my understanding, Mr. Williams, that the, your support of the
plan is designed to encourage additional people to place their children in
private school. If it is the case that these are the same people who
currently vote for property taxes to support the public schools, is it not
inevitable therefore that they will now vote against public tax levies and
That is, that is probably
That is probably right. See,
...the whole point is, is that what we need in
the interest of the United States, our society, is fewer children going to
poor quality, $2,000 or $3,000 schools, and more children going to high
quality, $500 a year schools. That's what we need in our country.
All right, thank you. Mr. Williams, thank you for
joining us on The Advocates. Mr. Scalia.
Tuition-tax credits will come to the aid of the hard-pressed taxpayer and
will allow parents to take and assert greater responsibility for their
children's education. Both public and private schools which gain the
confidence of the public will flourish. Tuition-tax credits are an
investment in excellence.
Thank you. For
those of you who may have joined us late, Mr. Scalia and his two witnesses
have presented the case in favor of tonight's question, "Should The Federal
Government Give Tax Credits To Help Pay For School Tuition." And now for the
case against, Mr. Van Alstyne, the floor is yours,
Ladies and gentlemen, there is one explanation
and only one for the Packwood-Moynihan Bill. It is a politician's belief
that it is always popular in this country to spend money, and the cynicism
that the public can be deceived by a fairly complicated measure. Tonight,
however, it will be not I, but I think it will be you who will prove them
wrong. For you will not support a bill which in fact will divert money from
those who need it for their children and give it to those who need it least.
I do not believe you will support a bill, once you've fully understood it,
which ignores a far more equitable way of helping families who do need it. A
way that already exists in part and that the President of the United States
proposes to expand in a very substantial fashion. Neither in my opinion will
you support a bill which subsidizes wholly private schools which may by law
discriminate among students according to their religion and which would
re-segregate education in the United States if that was their propensity.
And neither will you support a bill which would add a minimum of
$5,000,000,000 of inflationary government spending at the worst possible
time, when our own savings already are diminishing in their real purchasing
power. All of these things in fact are contemplated by the Packwood-Moynihan
Bill and, for that reason, I believe you will not support it. And I call as
my first witness, the Honorable Paul Simon.
Congressman Simon, welcome to The Advocates.
Congressman, Congressman Simon, a democrat
from Illinois incidentally is both a member of the House Budget Committee
and the Committee on Education. Very glad you're here, Congressman. We've
been given the impression predominately by the proponents of this measure,
that tax credits are truly the only way of providing aid in higher education
as well as lower education. In higher education, in your opinion, is it
really an understanding of tax credits or nothing?
It is not, very clearly. The present program for
this fiscal year - we're spending $9.9 billion for a variety of programs,
grants, loans, other things - and in addition to that the administration has
asked for $1.4 billion in a bill that has cleared both the House and the
Senate, which raises grants, ah, to families from, ah, $15,000 income up to
$25,000 income. Ah, you're guaranteed a grant if you have a family income of
$25,000 or less, and in some cases, it goes as high as $31,000.
But in diminishing amounts, is that
But in diminishing amounts, it's
a graduated, ah.
So that, how would
you then describe the basic difference in the approach between the
proponent's proposal here and the President's plan?
Well, it's a very fundamental difference. The
administration approach takes the traditional approach. It says you help
those most who have the greatest need, first of all, and second we ought to
encourage our young people and others to go to colleges and universities.
Ah, the ah, tuition-tax credit approach, ah, accepts neither of these
premises. It is a shotgun approach. It says whether your income is $100,000
or $10,000, we're going to give you an identical sum. And the practical
question that I have to face as a member of the Congress, is it wise public
policy just to be making a handout of a check of $500 to someone who has a
Well, let me ask
you this because some apparently think at least it would be popular and
therefore why can't we have both kinds of programs?
Well, there's a very practical problem and that is
the budgetary constraints. The Office of Management and Budget, when it sees
a tuition-tax credit of this size, will have to cut back on grants and loans
and other programs. I might add that the loan program, an administration
program, is eligible to, open to anyone regardless of income.
So in your opinion if
the tax credit is passed, it may in fact reduce the program currently
available based on need?
That is correct.
I think the second thing you have to face and that is that members of
Congress do not want to be constantly increasing that deficit. We're facing
a deficit of somewhere between $56 and $58 billion and as we add
$2,000,000,000, $5,000,000,000, these are, they have an inflationary
Congressman, ah, the
difference in approach seems to me so clear now. I don't understand what the
motive of this bill is. Do you have your own opinion about that
I think it's fairly clear. This is
an election year, and you're giving money to a politically articulate group.
Ah, as we voted on the House Budget Committee amendments, ah, I had three
members come to me and say, I wish I could vote with you, but in my
district, I can't. I think, ah, we're in an election year and we're seeing
an election year result.
I lost my
chance with Senator Hayakawa, but one of his last points was at least this
plan, whatever its other demerits, would have the virtue of simplicity in
administration. Could you clarify that for us? I'm sure you heard our
exchange on it.
I did hear the exchange
and, ah, it offers no simplicity whatsoever. It preserves all of the present
bureaucracy and adds to the Treasury Department, and it is not quite as
simple as my good friend Senator Hayakawa suggests, because you don't have
simply one line for tuition-tax credit. You have to deduct any scholarship,
any grants, that has to be deducted and of course you have to go through the
long explanation in the forms of all that.
One last question, Congressman. I know most middle-class parents
feel that the college costs are greater, and the other side has represented
that to be the case. Do you have information that that is true as it's been
represented here, that the college cost squeeze is as great as it's been
represented to be?
Well, it feels great
and it is a reality to the family. Statistically, however, I think we ought
to face some statistics as we consider this. One is in the last eight years
college costs have gone up an average 65%. In that same eight year period,
the average income for a family with children 18 to 24 has gone up 79%, and
for those with college...
after tax incomes, Congressman?
gross income now. This is gross income.
Is it also true that after-tax income has exceeded the increase in
the cost of college?
That is correct. That
All right, we'll have
We'll have to go to Mr.
Scalia for some questions for Congressman Simon.
Ah, Congressman, ah, you're aware aren't you that there, that there
are, ah, other views concerning the latest, ah, the last statistics you set
forth, as there are concerning most statistics. That many people assert that
there is indeed, not just an imaginary squeeze, but a real squeeze which is
caused, not because the rise in income is not matching the rise in college
tuition costs, but from the fact that with the rise in income goes an
inordinate rise in taxations, so that the disposable income left over is not
as able to handle the college tuition as it was ten years ago.
There have been a great many statistics that are
unreliable. I even,
...heard some from this side here
earlier this evening...
I don't want to
quibble over statistics, Congressman. I just, just want to get on the record
...that there are disputes on it.
I, I think that those figures are solid. They come from the Congressional
Budget Office. I would add that the squeeze is real on that family that has,
ah, a boy or girl in college or two or three, ah, and I think the
administration program with its loans and grant program helps that family
much more than the tuition grant. I would point out that a family of
$17,500, ah, income gets four times as much help under the administration
program for a student in college as does the program you advocate.
Congressman, that's not my understanding at
I gather that from the statistics
you, ah, cited a little earlier.
that's quite so. Yes. Your proposal would in effect scale down as the income
goes up. Right now the administration offers nothing to parents over
Under, under the new proposal, it would scale down
above $15,000 and above $15,000, $250 would be the maximum.
That, I would point out...
Whereas under this proposal it would be $500 as you
That is correct. But I would point
out that you're, you're talking about one aspect. You're talking about the
grant aspect. We're talking about loans, you're talking also about a variety
of other forms of assistance...
And those programs that go to the college...
...supplemental grant programs.
...are these, are these programs that go to the individual exclusively or
are you talking about the whole panoply of federal programs that go into
colleges and universities?
In some way or another?
...ing about programs that go to
Congressman, ah, you, you've
talked and, and the proponents of the administration's alternative talk as
though there really is not much need for helping those taxpayers who are
over $15,000. Certainly not any need for helping those over $25,000, because
after all, they can all afford very well the over $10,000 it costs to keep
two kids in a private college or the over $6000 it costs to keep two kids in
a public college. Ah, do you really think that, that's true? And if you do,
let me, let me ask you this...
May I take
one question at a time, please.
take that one.
Ah, I do not believe that
is true and no one has suggested that and the administration program, by
making loans available to students regardless of income, is helping someone
whether that income is, family income is $17,000, $30,000 or
And that helps more, I might add,
than a $500 check…
...it's to get a loan to, that helps you through the
The reason it's an election year
issue, Congressman, is this. What the middle-income taxpayer is asking is
not, as you seem to think, give me as much a share of some pie that is
already there in Washington, as you're giving to someone else. But he is
saying, don't take away from me, during the years I have a kid of mine in
college, at least 500 bucks to use for that college tuition. He's not asking
for some pie in Washington, he's asking to keep at home, his money to the
extent of $500. Isn't that something quite different from, from the context
in which you've been discussing it. It's not as though there's a fund in
Washington which we obtain by selling the Panama Canal or something like
that. We're, we're talking about whether the middle-income taxpayer should
have to send to Washington his money when he has a child in college. Isn't
that a different issue?
That is one way to
put the question. I think another way to put the question is which one of
these proposals helps that middle-income family the most. Ah, it appears to
me clearly, while it is more complicated, the administration program, that
that middle-income family is helped much more by the administration program
and it is geared to need, it does help encourage attendance at college and
It's very interesting that the colleges and
universities are very much for the administration program rather than
Because it, it funnels most of the
money through them. Congressman, you're, you're so keen on using a targeting
and, and a scale con...
We'll have to
have a very quick question.
It'll be a
quick one. Why don't you use a scaled concept for the vast majority of
educational funds that, that we distribute. Namely, the funds that one gets
in a public college or a public grammar school. Do you charge the rich and
not charge the poor?
You will find that
federal funds generally are scaled and, ah, what you are asking is a totally
new concept in federal funding. I think it is a mistake to go...
Not in educational funding.
Ah, Mr. Van Alstyne, a question for Congressman
Yes. I'm so glad I'll ask a
question, not make speech. The $500 billion, the $5 billion that would be
lost in revenue, Congressman - in your judgment where would that revenue be
made up? Where will it come from? What will we do? We're not proposing to
reduce other spending, expenditures are we? How are we going to handle the
bill and the $5 billion?
Well, I think the
harsh reality would be a combination of two things. Number one, it would be
a scaling down of grant programs, loan programs, other educational programs,
programs for the handicapped and other things, And secondly, there would be
an increment on the deficit, and we would the following year be paying more
and more interest and we'd have a little more inflation.
Ah, Mr. Scalia, we can have that question
Congressman, isn't all this
discussion over whether it gives too much to the rich or too much to the
poor and all of that. Isn't that really a side issue - couldn't that, the
tax credit be scaled just as well. I mean if that's your only obstacle, we
can come to some agreement on that. We could scale the tax credit, couldn't
we do that?
We could. I think it is a very
fundamental thing. It's, it's a fundamental question since the days of
Jefferson and Hamilton as I'm sure you're well aware of.
But really a side issue to the tuition-tax
Ah, only one question, I'm sorry,
Mr. Scalia. Congressman Simon, thank you very much for joining us on The
I call, I call as my next witness, Mr. Albert Shanker.
Mr. Shanker, welcome to The Advocates.
Mr. Shanker, as most of you doubtless know, is
President of the American Federation of Teachers. Mr. Shanker, why is it
that you oppose a $500 tax credit for private schools?
I think the American public schools have been one
of the great institutions of our society. We started as a wilderness with,
ah, many immigrants coming from all over the world. Ah, many of them not
literate. We have the most powerful nation in the world, one of the richest,
a nation that's enjoyed liberty and freedom longer than any other in the
history of, ah, mankind. And I think we owe a lot of that to our public
schools - the fact that we developed a common culture. And I think that this
proposal could completely destroy that public school system. I think it
would mean that those people who've got, already got a lot of money, but
whose children are still in the public schools would be given that one
incentive. Here's $500 to take your child out of the public schools and send
him to a private school or to a parochial school. Those children add quality
to public education. Those parents are the ones who are most politically
involved in helping to bring about the support of bond issues, and to help
bring about the support of federal aid and state aid for education. And I
think that once you take these parents out of the public school system and
their children out of the public school system, the public school systems
suffer a tremendous loss, not only in number of students but in the quality
of political support. Now, once that happens the first year, I think other
things happen after that. We're not going to stop with a $500 tuition-tax
credit. They're going to come back and ask for more; if $500 this year, why
not $700 next year, why not $1,000 the following year? Why not have each
state legislature provide an additional tuition-tax credit? Why not use some
of the local property taxes also for private and parochial schools? And
before you're finished, we will still have a public school system in this
country, but it's going to be public school system with handicapped
children, with children who are disturbed, with children who are disruptive,
with children who have been thrown out of or not accepted in the private
schools. And I say that I don't believe that the taxpayers of this country
want to destroy one of the major institutions which makes our society
Regardless of the impact on
the public schools, as you've described it, Mr. Shanker, we've heard Mr.
Williams testimony that, at least in his opinion, this might in fact supply
an extremely attractive alternative for low-income minority families. Do you
have a view about that?
Well, I don't
know very many low-income families who are going to take $500 and find
another $500 for each of their children - and some of the families of
low-income groups tend to be larger. I don't see how many of them are going
to be able to match that money. But you know, I, I would not view, ah, I
think if you want to see who represents the poor people of this country, ah,
look at the position of the NAACP which is violently in opposition to this.
Ah, look at the position of Vernon Jordan and the Urban League, violently in
opposition; and of the A. Philip Randolph Institute and of the Congressional
Black Caucus which the, these are the blacks in the Congress of the United
States who've been elected largely in black communities. Now, I'm not
surprised that, ah, a small extreme fringe of the black community, CORE,
wants to run schools of its own. But I don't think the taxpayers of this
country want to spend their money to run schools which are going to teach
the philosophy and ideology that will be taught in those schools.
Your point isn't that it should be disallowed,
I gather, but merely that it ought not be subsidized through a tax
Oh, I think if somebody wants to
go to a religious school, or if someone wants to go to a school that teaches
a particular political philosophy, ah, they have a right to buy it. And if
they want a swimming pool in their own backyard, they ought to pay for it
and they shouldn't say that just because they don't like the town's public
swimming pool that the rest of us have to pay for their private swimming
An alternative justification,
Mr. Shanker, that I've heard and I've heard again tonight is at least that
this would be a long overdue substitute for a general property tax
reduction. Let us say that middle-class Americans do deserve some
consideration in the high property taxes they now pay. Don't you agree at
least to the extent that this plan is helpful in that way?
I don't believe it will be helpful in that at all.
I don't say, ah, as a matter of fact if you want to take that same amount of
money and use it for property tax reduction, you can do it, you can do it
But I see this moving in a completely opposite
direction. I think this is going to increase taxes and it's going to
increase the cost of education. Because right now educa, the costs of
education are controlled by taxpayers in their votes and in their election
of legislators. But once you put this out there, it's going to become very
much like the private nursing homes and it's going to become very much like
a lot of private health insurance. Ah, this becomes a base for what the
further charges are and when the private sector decides to impose those
charges, they can use this $500 as a basis, not of helping the poor, but as
a basis of increasing their own tuition.
All right, we'll have to go.
predict that there will be tremendous pressure on states and the federal
government and local school districts to increase taxes to put more and more
money in private and parochial schools.
Excuse me, Mr. Shanker. Mr. Scalia.
Thank you, Mr. Shanker.
Mr. Shanker, I, I certainly
appreciate your concern about losing, ah, from the public school system,
parents who would vote on bond issues. Of course, you have proposed, ah, a
much more direct solution to that problem, haven't you. That is, ah, you
have proposed that parents shouldn't be able to vote on bond issues anyway,
You, I, I have it in an article you wrote. You said
that bond issues should not be submitted to public referendum.
I think that taxes for schools ought to be
determined the same way that taxes for everything else are determined. I
don't think that...
By the bureaucratic,
No, by the people
who elect their representatives. I don't believe that if the people of this
country had to have a referendum on everything, whether it's having an army
or a navy or a social security system or health system or an anti-poverty
program or anything, I think that on any given issue you could probably get
a majority of people saying, well, that doesn't affect me today, I'm going
to vote against it. Now, in this country we've got a system where the only
thing that's singled out for a referendum is schools all by themselves. And
you know something that's really interesting? The interesting thing is that
in spite of the fact that people have an opportunity to take out all of
their aggression against government and against taxation and there's only
one place they have a chance to take it out and that's in the school system,
that the overwhelming majority of tax proposals for schools are passed by
the citizens of their community.
And I think that
indicates a tremendous,
...and I may
note, by the way...
...amount of public
support for our schools,
I, I have a few
other questions, Mr. Shanker. Ah, I, I note by the way that what you say is
certainly true and isn't it also true that the five states that have the
largest number of private and parochial schools - or the largest proportion
of students in private and parochial schools - are also the five states that
are spending the highest amount of money on public schools? And that the
five states that are the lowest in the other, are also the lowest in, on the
public schools. How does this conform to your idea that somehow if we let
people send, ah, their, their children parochial or private schools, they
will tear down the public school system?
No, I am not taking, ah, I think you have, ah misled us in your question.
I'm not saying that we shouldn't let people go to private and parochial
schools. We've always let them go. The question is who pays for
I see, that's the same
Now, now let me, let me
complete my answer. When you've got, ah, anytime you offer an incentive to
people to do something, some of them will take that incentive. And you can
open up the newspaper any day of the week and you'll find a, a number of
banks advertising that if you find $3,000 somewhere in your house and take
it to their savings bank, they'll give you a little transistor radio. Now,
those ads appear every day of the week because people manage to find $3,000
if you offer them an incentive and you'll find...
I understand that.
you'll find supermarkets with little ads saying that they'll give you 11
cents off on some coffee and people go out and buy the coffee.
Mr. Shanker, that's very interesting
And if you offer people $500 to take their
children out of the public school...
...but I only have five minutes. May I ask another question?
...some of them will do it.
Mr. Shanker, I, I certainly understand your, your
principle that we're free to go to other schools than the public schools,
but, but we should pay our own way. It, curiously, it's the same argument
that used to be made in the early days of this republic, and I'd like to
know how you distinguish the two situations. It used to be made by those
people who favored an established church. They used to say, look, we don't
require you to belong to the Church of England. We have freedom of religion
in this state. But we have, ah, a state church here. You're welcome to come
to it for free. If you don't want it, go to another one, but don't expect us
to pay for the other one. Why is it different for the schools? I, I don't
really understand that, I honestly don't.
Well, you're turning the whole argument on its head. And that is
obviously in one, in one case, in one case, the taxpayers in the country
would be establishing a church. And in the other case...
They would be establishing a school.
Yes, we are establishing a public institution to
serve the purposes that the people and their elected representatives decide
on. Not to teach in a foreign language, to teach in ours. And it's the
people, through their elected representatives, who decide what the
curriculum is. And, yes, the people of this country have decided that we're
going to educate handicapped students, and we're not going to allow public
schools to, to say that they're not going to educate them. And if a child
comes here and cannot speak any English, that we're going to start by
teaching them in their own language.
Congressman, do you really.
And none of these...
I'm sorry, Mr. Scalia,
...none of these requirements or obligations are placed on the
schools that you're talking about.
Shanker, sorry, but Mr. Van Alstyne, another question for Mr.
I want to allow you to
elaborate on that last, Mr. Shanker. This proposal is presented to us as
trying to stimulate competition. You just have said that none of these
things are required of these schools. I take it then that, that's, it's your
opinion that they will not compete on fair terms and, in your opinion, if
this kind of measure is provided, what will in fact happen once
Well, it's clear that what will
happen is that the public schools will be at a disadvantage, because the
public schools are going to have to take -in addition to the regular
students - they're going to have to take those who are more expensive and
more difficult to educate. You know we're getting this picture...
Is this because.
Only one question...
getting the picture...
because they're less efficient or because they're obliged to do
Mr. Van Alstyne, I'm sorry. We have
to go to Mr. Scalia for a final question.
Congressman, let me, let me understand your argument about the brightest and
the finest leaving the public school systems. I, two things, I don't
understand why they leave if, if the school system is good as it is
certainly in most, most states. And secondly, are you really asserting that,
ah ah, are you telling the parent in the public school, yes, we understand
that your child might do better somewhere else and you feel that to be the
case, but for the good of the society, we have to sacrifice his intellect on
the altar of the public schools. Is that what you're saying?
Even though it's not good for him, we have to keep him in the public schools
for the good of the rest of the students.
I think that we've done pretty well by the intellects in our
country. Remember that we don't manufacture that much anymore. We import.
And most of our agriculture is done by machinery. What we export to the rest
of the world is computers and technology and brainpower. And that's a result
of our public schools. So I, I resent that dumping on public education in
America which has done very very well indeed.
Thank you, thank you, Mr. Shanker. Mr. Shanker, thank you for
joining us on The Advocates.
thank you. And now, let's go to the closing arguments. Mr. Scalia.
What are the principle arguments against the
tuition-tax credit? That it helps the many many taxpayers who really do not
need help for college tuition? That is implausible. But if it is true, it
can be met by scaling the credit rather than eliminating it entirely. That
it will destroy the public schools? But they are by definition the schools
that the majority wants. They can only profit from high, from, from from
more competition. Or finally that education outside the state schools, even
in institutions not exclusively for the rich, fragments our society. This is
at, at base an argument against the long American tradition of religious
education. But it is not religious, that divides, religion that divides us
today. Rather it is social class and race. And the neighborhood public
school has proven itself a much better instrument for preserving those
divisions than the parochial school. The tuition-tax credit is fiercely
opposed by the public educational bureaucracy for one fundamental reason. It
is the beginning of the end of their monopoly. You should support it for the
same reason. It represents a return to our nation's first principles - of
freedom of choice, diversity and competition for excellence. Thank
Thank you. Mr. Van
Ladies and gentlemen, I'm
sure you know that The Advocates is truly, a, an unrehearsed show, and so
when an advocate in the course of his closing remarks changes the
proposition before the house, one has to be adroit to recognize that which
has happened. The proposal for the tax credit contemplates the spending of
$5 billion. The vast majority of that sum of money is earmarked for higher
education. Mr. Scalia has recognized that it has nothing to do with need. It
does not meet the needs of those who need it most. It provides a boondoggle
for those who have no need at all. His adjustment is an interesting one, to
suggest that perhaps the proposal would be more appetizing if it were
scaled. That I submit to you is the President's program. That is not the
Packwood-Moynihan plan. That is the difference; that is not the cure. Merely
to scale a credit and lay it on top of this is just more lagniappe and in my
respectful view quite a bit of claptrap as well.
Thank you, Mr. Van Alstyne. Thank you, gentlemen. Thank you. Thank
you. And now we turn to you, and now we turn to you in our audience and ask
what you think about the questions raised in tonight's debate. "Should The
Federal Government Give Tax Credits To Help Pay For School Tuition?" Send us
your vote, yes or no, on a postcard to The Advocates, Box 1978, Boston, MA.
02134. If you would like a transcript of tonight's debate or a transcript of
any of our previous debates, please mail a check or money order for §2.00 to
the same address, The Advocates, Box 1978, Boston, MA. 02134. On April 27,
The Advocates debated passage of the Labor Law Reform Act of 1978. As we
expected the mail has been heavy, and the tally of votes on that question is
not complete as of this evening. We'll announce that vote on our next
broadcast. And now with thanks to our advocates and our distinguished
witnesses, we conclude tonight's debate.