Reagan Sends School Tax Credit Bill to Congress

The Reagan Administration sent its controversial tuition tax credit bill to Congress Tuesday. It would allow parents of children attending parochial and other private schools to deduct up to 50 percent of each child’s tuition from their taxable income.

The measure, similar to one introduced early this year by Sens. Daniel Moynihon (D. N.Y.), Robert Packwood (R. Ore.) and William Roth (R. Del.), would allow a maximum deduction of $100 per child in 1983, $300 in 1984 and $500 in 1985 and thereafter. The cost to the Treasury by 1987 is estimated at $1.5 billion.

The bill is expected to be introduced in the Senate this week by Robert Dole (R. Kan.) and in the House by Reps. Willis Gradison (R. Ohio) and Mario Bioggi (D. N.Y.). It is strongly opposed by civil libertarian and civil rights groups which, question its constitutionality, it is equally strongly supported by Roman Catholic and Orthodox Jewish groups.

Under the Administration bill, the maximum deduction would be phased out for families with annual incomes over $50,000 and would not apply to those with incomes over $75,000 or to college students. The Administration measure also contains an anti-discrimination provision which has come under attack by civil rights groups. The latter contend that it is without substance because it would place the burden of proof of discrimination on individual complainants rather than on schools accused of racial or religious discrimination.

ORTHODOX BACK BILL

Rabbi Menachem Lubinsky, director of government and public affairs for Agudath Israel of America, who attended the ceremony at which President Reagan announced his transmittal of the tuition tax credit proposal to Congress, said he told the President that “Orthodox Jews, regardless of background, are united in support” of the measure.

He also said the “Reagan initiative” finally recognized “the rights of parents of children in private schools instead of treating them as second class citizens.”

He said Agudath Israel plans to mobilize its “network of committees and coordinators in 31 states,” organized as the “Campaign to Relieve Independent Education” for an intensive campaign to win support for passage in the Congress.

In a statement, Agudath Israel said the Reagan proposal met all the objectives Agudath Israel established “when it first became one of the leading advocates for tuition tax credits 15 years ago.”

The Orthodox agency rejected arguments that tax credits would encourage parents to shift to nonpublic schools, calling it “inconceivable” that parents of public school pupils would give up the benefits of a free education “for a minor tax credit.”

AGUDATH ISRAEL STRESSES CONSTITUTIONALITY

The agency also asserted that the “strict” anti-discrimination enforcement expected for the measure also guaranteed that the proposed tax credit measure would not support racially segregated schools. The agency also said its attorneys were confident that the measure, if adopted, would be upheld as constitutional.

Rabbi Moshe Sherer, Agudath Israel president, expressed the hope that secular Jewish groups, which have consistently opposed such tuition tax credits, would recognize that such credits did not pose a threat to the constitutional separation of church and state. He said the relief which would be provided to parents was “a recognition of their legitimate rights” in no way meant “to change the role of religion in our society.”

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