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Updated: Ted Cruz Scores a Victory on Funding for Private Schools

Cruz could secure more money in tax cuts for private schools and homeschools than Greg Abbott or Dan Patrick have gotten from the state.

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Editor’s note: The future of Cruz’s amendment for a private school savings plan in the tax bill is now uncertain. The House this morning approved a conference committee report that included the Cruz plan, but late this afternoon House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy announced that the Cruz amendment violated a Senate procedural rule. However, a Capitol source told Texas Monthly that only the homeschool provision would have to be removed to conform to Senate rules. The Senate tonight will vote on the Cruz amendment, and the bill will go back to the House for further action on Wednesday.

Update: The Senate did, in fact, vote to remove the piece of the Cruz amendment that extended college savings plans to homeschool programs. His private school provision will stay.

In the congressional debate over restructuring federal taxes, U.S. Senator Ted Cruz managed to do something that Governor Greg Abbott and Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick could not do during this year’s state legislative session: pass legislation that makes it easier for parents to pay for private schools or cover homeschooling expenses.

If the Senate tax bill eventually becomes law, the Cruz amendment would expand the tax-exempt college savings account—known as a 529 because of its location in the tax code—to cover up to $10,000 a year in tuition or expenses for elementary and secondary education in private schools or for homeschooling.

The average private school elementary tuition in Texas, for example, is $6,836 a year, and the average private high school education costs $10,462, according to the Private School Review. The group also reports that 304,456 students are educated at 1,782 private schools in Texas. Sixty-two percent of those schools are affiliated with a religion.

Single taxpayers can contribute up to $14,000 a year to a 529 plan, and married couples can invest up to $28,000. Utilizing such a plan might make sense for middle and upper-income families but could be an impossible struggle for the working poor. That’s why some supporters of private school vouchers support direct government funding, which opponents complain would divert money from the public schools.

During this year’s state legislative session, Abbott and Patrick supported a school voucher program that would have set up education savings accounts to pay for private school tuition for economically disadvantaged students. But the savings accounts in that plan would have just been a pass-through of an estimated $3.4 billion taken from public schools and given to parents for use at private schools. The measure died in the House without a vote.

Cruz’s plan is different, though, because it is just a matter of the federal government foregoing the revenue. In the future, that either increases the national debt or results in automatic federal budget cuts under arcane rules called pay-as-you-go, or Paygo.

Education advocacy groups, not surprisingly, opposed the Cruz amendment as a first step toward private school vouchers that might undermine the public education system. But the legislation also received opposition from some conservative groups, such as the American Enterprise Institute, for falling short of President Trump’s promise to put $20 billion of federal funds into private school choice.

An AEI report said the amendment does little to help underprivileged families put their children in private schools and added that the overall value of a 529 account is diminished if funds are withdrawn early to pay for private high school instead of being saved for college. “The parents who will benefit most from these changes are those who already send their children to private schools or have access to tax advisors to help them plan their savings,” the report said. “If Congress really wishes to advance the administration’s stated goals on school choice, it would do better to scrap these reforms to 529 plans and come up with a different proposal.”

Cruz’s main Republican primary opponents questioned whether his amendment is a meaningful part of a true tax reform.

“While I agree with Sen. Ted Cruz that parents should be able to utilize their 529 plan savings on K-12 education expenses—for public schools, private schools, religious schools and homeschooling—the bigger concern regarding tax reform is whether Ted is currently vying for the best interest of the citizens of Texas,” said Bruce Jacobson, a Christian television executive challenging Cruz in the Republican primary. Jacobson said Cruz had promised to simplify the tax code.

Houston energy lawyer Stefano de Stefano, another Cruz challenger, said, “Personally, I love Ted’s amendment because it helps family’s like Ted’s and mine, along with other rich people whose kids already don’t go to public schools. But the reality is that this amendment is a transfer of wealth from the public purse—tax dollars that fund public education—to private schools, many of which will be religious institutions. If Ted wants to transfer money from public schools to Imams, Synagogues and the Vatican, fine, but let’s not pretend this benefits the majority of Texans.”

El Paso congressman Beto O’Rourke, Cruz’s likely Democratic opponent, said the amendment is just part of a larger tax cut that will harm average Americans. “This tax bill hurts public education in Texas and across the country,” he said.  Republicans “add $1.5 trillion to the debt with no doubt in my mind that they’ll soon come back and demand cuts to education and services middle class families rely on to pay for that new debt. Now, they’re lifting private schools up with the Cruz amendment while leaving public schools behind.”

Congress is expected to take a final vote on the tax overhaul bill before Christmas.


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  • John Bernard Books

    Thats why Cruz is the man…..meanwhile fraud in DC
    “The Journal makes it clear that there appears to be mounting evidence of election meddling emanating from the bureau:”

    one way to downsize the government….lock all the dems up and kill two birds at once. Eliminate fraud and downsize the size of the bloated bureaucracy…..

  • scottrob

    This is really much less than it sounds. Most families cannot put large chunks of cash away in tax advantaged accounts. Any gains depend on the stock market or other investment. Such investments can go down. It really is geared toward upper middle and above family incomes. And how long will it take for some home school scandal to occur such as spending money on an “educational” trip to some exotic and sunny locale.

  • SpiritofPearl

    “Congress shall establish no religion . . .”

    • WUSRPH

      They are getting around that—or think they are—by not giving any money directly to a religious institution…..They are giving a tax treatment that allows people to use their own money for that purpose. It is probably too indirect to result in a SCOTUS ruling against it…

      • SpiritofPearl

        I know what it is and you know what it is. Pence got a voucher system passed in IN. My DIL’s parents told us that four public schools in South Bend have closed recently. Eventually only the poor will go to public schools.

    • R_Pipkin

      “The Congress shall make no law establishing a religion nor prohibit the free exercise thereof.”

      I’m sure the purveyors of Kipp Academy would love to know they are presiding over a religious institution. I’m also sure my secular humanist homeschooling liberal friends would love to know they would be establishing a religion by having more money to use to homeschool their children.

      Bottom line, you guys just hate liberty. You hate the fact some parents will choose to use their money to send their children to an accredited school that emphasizes religious principles. You want to tie up and constrain people to failing government institutions because some people might choose something you disapprove of.

      This has absolutely nothing to do with establishing a national religion.

      • BCinBCS

        I’m sure the purveyors of Kipp Academy would love to know they are presiding over a religious institution.

        Kipp Academy and others like them are not private schools, they are charter schools. There’s a big difference.

        • SpiritofPearl

          And what religion? There’s a Muslim school in my neighborhood here in Austin. Wonder how many parents there would apply for government funds and receive them?

        • R_Pipkin

          The amendment allows parents to save their money in a tax advantageous savings account for college, and now k-12 private education. It’s not the federal governments money. They never possessed it.

          The only way for your line of reasoning to be true is if all money belongs to the federal government first. Is that what you believe?

          • BCinBCS

            You’re correct about the money.

          • R_Pipkin

            Interest paid on a passbook savings account is less than one percent. 529 plans are typically backed by mutual funds and do pay a higher return.

            I think paying for private education while also paying the taxes that find public schools is enough. Let people use their money to make the choices they want to make for their children. If the public schools want the kids back they should have to earn them back.

          • BCinBCS

            My point, whether the family saves their money traditionally in a savings account or in a mutual account, is that by utilizing a 529, the government is foregoing taxes, therefore (yes, indirectly) supporting religion in the case of religious schools.

          • R_Pipkin

            So children being educated is secondary to having as many government run schools as possible?

            Or, are you saying private schools don’t do as good a job of educating children as public schools?

            A vast majority of private schools do a better job of bringing kids up to grade level and beyond than even public charter schools. Private education does not degrade education, it enhances it. This is the reason we want more and more children in private schools. The public schools should have to earn the children in their classrooms by doing what they do better than private schools, not by entrapping as many children as possible in a failing system.

            It it must happen then it would be better if children were educated exclusively in private neighborhood schools even if that means every government school is shuttered.

            Seriously, is this about educating children or is it about continuing to grow governments beyond the control of the people?

            Taxing savings accounts is a second taxation of the same money. When is it enough with you guys?…

          • BCinBCS

            I don’t have a problem with private schools. I do have a problem with government subsidizing religious based schools. If all private schools will compete on the same level ground as public schools then all of education can be by private schools, as far as I/m concerned. But, they must take any student that applies, they must provide education to all students, including those with physical and mental conditions, they must not expel their problem students and they must be publicly accountable, financially and educationally.

          • R_Pipkin

            People spending money not taken from them is not government subsidization.

            Many private schools take in kids via scholarships and get them up to grade level and better using less money per student to do it. There’s a lottery each year to hand these scholarships in the DC area. Families celebrate as if they’ve won the Powerball when their kids win because they know their child has been given a chance at success. You really should watch the documentary “Waiting For Superman.”

            The biggest problem with all of your must do nonsense is by the time you’re done, the school is too restrained. If ~everyone~ can’t succeed, then ~no one~ should. Sorry, we should do the best we reasonably can, but life isn’t fair. People spending THEIR money to educate THEIR children does not make PRIVATE schools PUBLIC.

            You guys are enemies of liberty. Plain & simple…

      • SpiritofPearl

        Sixty percent of the recipients use their funds for religious education. The GOP never met a public fund they didn’t want to coopt. They are destroying free public education in America and, in the process, they are destroying part of what makes us great. Too bad you’ve been propagandized into thinking it’s about “liberty.”

        • R_Pipkin

          The government is not choosing where any money goes. We are talking about a private savings account with tax advantages. The money belongs to, and always has belonged to, private individuals. The government is choosing nothing. Before the Cruz amendment 529 savings accounts could be used for private Christian universities.

          The only thing changing is the money can now be used for private K through 12 education…

          • SpiritofPearl

            Handwaving. The money is siphoned away from public school funds.

            If you want your children to have a religious education, do as my family did – pay for it yourself.

          • R_Pipkin

            Those savings accounts contain money from the parents and grandparents. They are paying for private education as well as paying the taxes that fund public schools. What part of that do you not understand?

            Show me where the Department of Education‘s budget has been cut. No money is being taken away from public schools even though the federal government has no business being involved in local schools in the first place

            If they want those kids back in the classroom they should earn their attendance.

          • SpiritofPearl

            You fail to understand school funding. Property taxes are used to fund schools, not “grandparents.” Each community allots an amount to pay for public schools in the community coupled with federal funds for certain benchmarks. There is only a specific amount. Once it’s gone, there is no more.

            Kids don’t have to “earn” their attendance. Free public education makes America great, not Fox News.

          • R_Pipkin

            What if public education can be done in neighborhood private schools that actually teach children as opposed to shuffling them from grade to grade only to graduate them still functionally illiterate? You guys don’t care about educating any children. You care about entrapping them in a government run system that makes you feel better about all the “good” the government does.

            Fact is private schools do more “good“ than public education does with far less money.

            I want to see children educated. I don’t care where it happens.

            BTW, don’t grandparents pay property taxes?…

          • SpiritofPearl

            I disagree with your analysis of public education. They are now all about the test, another method to take money away from public schools. There are no data to support your claim that private schools do a “better job.” Like most bubbas you’ve been brainwashed by right-wing media. You and yours want to take everything you can no matter who gets hurt in the process, including our country.

            Most folks, especially the poor, cannot pay for a private education. I went to Catholic schools that were heavily subsidized by the church in those days. My family wouldn’t be able to afford them now.

            You fail to understand how schools are funded. Do yourself a favor and become educated before you make a fool of yourself again.

          • R_Pipkin

            How can you take something away if they never possessed it? Why the presumption of ownership?

            The expansion of 529 savings accounts will allow more people to afford private school. That is what you don’t want. I know how schools are funded. The only fool here is you. When someone can get out and receive a better education, you want to hold them back to affirm government power. Is it a school or a prison?

            Look up 11% of parents send their kids to private schools while 29% to 40% (changes city to city) of public school teachers send their kids to private schools. What do they know that you don’t? I’m all for children receiving the best education possible while you are all for empowering the government over the people. Which of us is the rigid ideologue?

            Davis Guggenheim, Steve Jobs and other notable left of center thinkers have looked at the problem and have come to the same conclusion: public schools are subpar. You want to keep kids trapped in them because it makes you feel better…

          • SpiritofPearl

            I want PUBLIC schools, not religious schools paid for with my tax dollars, to be the best they can be. Brainwashed Fox News zombies are selling their souls – and their children’s education – to the devil.

            Come back when you learn more about the topic at hand. You waste my time.

          • R_Pipkin

            An intelligent person would know not all private schools are religious. It isn’t even most of them. What you are against is choice. You want people roped into a one size fits some system without a single care as to how many children slip through the cracks and graduate functionally illiterate because your main allegiance is to growing government over the people.

            Meanwhile, where do well off parents send their children? Did you ever think of that? School choice helps to even the educational playing field. If your big government idol has to take a hit on this, so be it.

            Funny, you’re so busy babbling about Fox News and calling out other names, you still fail to realize it’s not the government’s money. Believing all money first belongs to a central authority goes against everything this country was founded upon. I own my hands and the fruits of their labor, not you…

          • SpiritofPearl

            Your ad hominem screeds bore me.

            “79% of private schools are religiously affiliated . . .” http://www.capenet.org/facts.html

            The First Amendment states “Congress shall establish no religion . . .”

            What part of that is so hard for you to understand?

          • R_Pipkin


            One more time, people spending their money is not the federal government establishing a religion. First of all, our money does not first belong to the federal government. It is all ours. They take what they take by law, but that does not change first ownership.

            The government doesn’t choose Coke when I purchase a Coke with my money.

            Second, how is not singling out any denomination establishing a religion? You have conflated all religions into one. That is your problem, not mine. If the government does not show favoritism in the spending of the money they collect from taxpayers, guess what?, They are not establishing ~a~ religion.

            On both counts your premise, which is an extension of your worldview, is fundamentally flawed.

            All your pointless braggadocio does is back you into needless corners. Learn some humility…

            Finally, does the fact most students attend a religious, or church, based private school mean there are no secular private schools?…

          • SpiritofPearl

            “Congress shall establish no religion . . .”

          • R_Pipkin

            Amendment I. “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”

            I don’t know why you put quotes around that nonsense you typed, but the first amendment reads as written above.

            And once again, the government is not spending any money. The people will be spending ~their~ money. To say people purchasing something with their money is the government spending money is saying all money and property belongs to the federal government. Find that in our Constitution. Hint: it’s not in there.

            No amount of lowbrow leftist trope regurgitation on your part will change that…

          • SpiritofPearl

            Did you take Civics in high school? Whose money do you think will be used to pay for vouchers? The government’s money, paid for by taxpayers.

            Are you a college graduate?

            Have you ever taken a course in constitutional law?

            Do you watch Fox News?

            I will “put” “quotes” “wherever” “I” “choose.”

          • SpiritofPearl
      • SpiritofPearl

        It is an infringement on MY liberty to be forced to pay for the indoctrination of children in a faith I do not share.

        Our schools are not failing.

        • R_Pipkin

          Keep telling yourself are schools are not failing while the majority of students who graduate from Washington DC schools can not read.

          Again, I wasn’t aware Kip Academy is a religious institution. I also wasn’t aware of liberal homeschoolers indoctrinating their children with Christianity. This amendment are a-religious. They are not geared toward any belief. They are there to give parents choices…

          • SpiritofPearl

            Saying the same thing over again does not make it true.

          • R_Pipkin

            You’re right, the fact it’s true makes it true…

          • SpiritofPearl

            Gotta prove it’s true, not SAY it’s true.

  • anonyfool

    I looked up the cost of the local private schools in California, 23K a year for elementary and 28K a year for private high school. It’s a joke that anyone thinks this helps anyone but those that kinda don’t need help.

    • bubba60609

      What joke? What you’re saying is, for $5k more, your kid could actually get a real education. That is the deal of a century. Unless, of course, you want your kid to grow up to be a putz.

      • SpiritofPearl

        Public schools do an excellent job.

  • BCinBCS

    Comrade Trump and our two Texas senators have your middle-class back. Middle-class and below conservatives know that Republicans such as Senator Ted Cruz are on their sides as evidenced by this blog piece on breaks for those who send their kids to private schools. You do send your kids to private schools, don’t you?

    Our other Texas senator, John Cornyn, is looking out for you too. He defended the tax bill scam by tweeting:
    Under TaxCutsandJobsAct a married couple earning $100,000 per year ($60,000 from wages, $25,000 from their non-corporate business, and $5,000 in business income) will receive a tax cut of $2.603.50, a reduction of 24 percent.” You do have two businesses plus wage income, don’t you?

    As a member of the middle-class, I am so thankful that I have such a great reduction in my income tax – except that I, too, do not have two businesses nor do I make $100,000 per year (and if I had kids, I couldn’t afford private schooling). But other than that Cornyn, Cruz and the rest of the Republicans have my back. What about you?

    • BCinBCS

      There was a discussion in the previous blog post between JJ (SeeItMyWay) and me. He predicted that the Republican tax redistribution plan would eventually become popular much the way that Obamacare did.

      Unfortunately there are unintended consequences coupled with this tax bill. As I also mentioned previously, PAYGO will require automatic reductions in social programs such as Medicare, Social Security and Medicaid due to the loss of tax revenue. That fact will keep the bill unpopular.

      Why will people not warm to the bill? Here is a chart showing the popularity of those programs that Republicans (especially granny-starver Speaker of the House Paul Ryan) want to drown in a bathtub:


      • WUSRPH

        This post from yesterday leads you to an article that looks at some of those allegedly unintended, but probably intended, consequences.

        Now that we’ve insured that the rich and big business are taken care of (for now)…..the time to begin thinking about what role government will play in the future in the lives of the rest of us….This article is a good way to begin that process. Those of us who are old will probably be left alone to live out the rest of our lives without much change….but the next generation and the one after that will face major threats……Will America continue to be a country dedicated to the well-being of all…or will we follow the lead of the Cruz’s and Ryans into Ayn Rand’s world of we are all on our own…..Who is John Galt?


      • BCinBCS

        Since I mentioned the popularity of Obamacare and Cornyn’s tweets, let’s delve into the latest fantasy of Comrade Trump and his tweet today about the ACA.
        He tweeted:
        (emphasis is mine)

        When the individual mandate is being repealed, that means Obamacare is being repealed…Obamacare has been repealed in this [tax] bill.”

        In what fantasy world does this man live? Not only did he not repeal Obamacare, he took its total repeal entirely off of the table. Obamacare is very popular but the least popular aspect of the bill is the individual mandate. By eliminating that unpopular feature, Comrade Trump and the Republicans eliminated almost every reason that people have to oppose it.

        What a clever politician.

        • SpiritofPearl

          We spend way too much on our fee-for-service health care system. Medicare is especially egregious – overtesting, unnecessary add ons. SS about breaks even.

          Wait until the bubbas discover that 2/3s of nursing home care is financed by Medicaid. Who’s going to quit their job to stay home and care for Granny? Or maybe in Trumplandia, Granny gets thrown off a cliff along with those nine million children who are no longer insured? Gotta pay for those trophy wives somehow.

          • BCinBCS

          • SpiritofPearl

            I love Medicare. Don’t know how I would have cared for my family members in their old age without it and Medicaid. Unfortunately we are spending about three dollars for every dollar we put into it. Our fee-for-service is to blame.

    • SpiritofPearl

      My cataract surgery in January is going to cost $2400 more because medical deductions are more restrictive. How many trophy wives can Steve Mnuchin buy with his cut? Meanwhile nine million children are uninsured.

    • BCinBCS

      (You didn’t post the link.)

    • WUSRPH

      Sorry, it may not let you get to the article because I had reached my article limit….But you can easily find it as The Economist.

  • John Bernard Books

    MeRRRRRRRRRRRRRy Christmas to everyone here.
    Enjoy you tax cuts from meNTed…..

  • SeeItMyWay

    “The sky is falling, the sky is falling!!!”

    How many thousands of dollars did middle class American families pay for a health insurance policy that because of high deductibles turned it into a catestrophic injury/illness policy? All routine or general health issue trips to the Doc cost them even more.

    You want to compare the tax cut to Obamacare with regards to how each affects the middle class?

    Did you see what many companies are planning to spend on company reinvesting, employee bonuses and raises once Trump signs the tax bill?

    The people in states with high state income taxes who will no longer be able to deduct them from their fed income taxes are going to take a big hit, but has this been fair to the rest of us?

    You whiners and naysayers have been going strong since Nov 2nd. The economy is booming. Even with all the side show stuff, gains are being made on all fronts.

    I get that you Trump haters don’t like what is going on. The Supreme Court, this tax deal, backing out of the Paris accord, ISIS’s demise, the deportations and decreasing border crossing numbers, the return of forgotten imprisioned Americans, and, and…

    Is there any chance of you cry babies just whimpering until one of your dire prognostications come to pass instead of wailing at the top of your lungs now? Please give it some thought. You look stupid.

    • BCinBCS

      Oh, JJ. You gave me my daily laugh out loud moment for the day with your ironic “You look stupid” comment.

  • BCinBCS

    You are so woefully ill informed.