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STATEMENT OF HON. MARIO BIAGGI, A REPRESENTATIVE IN
CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF NEW YORK Mr. Biaggi. Mr. Chairman, members of the committee, I am pleased to have this opportunity to testify in support of my bill, H.R. 16273, the Public and Private Education Assistance Act of 1972. I am also pleased to join with the over 130 cosponsors of similar measures in the House.
Our public and private educational systems are severely strapped to pay their bills. Private schools, particuarly Catholic schools, have been slowly closing. In the last decade there was a net drop of almost a half a million children in nonpublic school enrollment. There is no doubt that this trend will continue.
At the same time, our public school administrators have been hard pressed to obtain additional funds to educate the millions of new children coming into the public school system. During the last decade as the private school enrollment dipped 8 percent, the public school rolls went up 23 percent.
In New York City, all our public schools are overcrowded. The city cannot build schools fast enough to take care of the overload. At the same time, more and more private, and particularly Catholic, schools are being forced to cloes their doors due to high costs of operation. These children can only go into the public school system. Moreover, many of the schools closing their doors in New York are
children in poverty areas. The churches can no longer sustain the high costs of educating children.
This bill is more a matter of equity than anything else. It costs over $800 per pupil to operate public educational systems in our major cities. This tax credit bill will mean that the taxpayers will be educating children for a maximum of $200.
I do not see any conflict between church and state here. The tax dollars are going to pay for an education, not to build a church. It is far better that we pay for this education in this manner than be forced to assume the additional burden of the private school children in the regular school system—a burden that in cases like New York cannot even be assumed.
Let me address myself for a moment to the second major aspect of this bill.
In communities across the country taxpayers are refusing to vote more money for schools. Their property taxes are already at the highest levels and further increases would be unbearable. Local administrators cannot build new schools, hire new teachers or teach more children without the additional funds. My bill will set aside $2.5 billion to establish a public education trust fund to help relieve local property owners of the burden of paying for public education.
This will help not only the individual homeowner, but apartment dwellers as well, since the real estate taxes on all property is used to help pav for public school education.
Mr. Chairman, there is a great sense of immediacy here. Our schools are in a crisis. More money is needed if we are going to educate our children properlv. Millions of parents are looking toward Congress for the much needed relief from rising private school tuition costs and
already high property taxes. This measure will provide that relief and respond to the hope of parents everywhere for a better educational system
Mr. BURKE. Thank you, Mr. Biaggi. If there are no questions, the committee appreciates your coming to us here today.
We are glad to have with us today Hon. Lawrence J. Hogan of Maryland. Please identify yourself for the record and you may proceed.
STATEMENT OF HON. LAWRENCE J. HOGAN, A REPRESENTATIVE
IN CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF MARYLAND Mr. Hogan. Mr. Chairman, having introduced a similar bill, I strongly support the concept of legislation being considered in these hearings to provide a tax credit to individuals for educational expenses. Nonpublic schools are having serious financial problems. Lowto middle-income parents are having a difficult time meeting the increasing tuition costs of nonpublic schools as high taxes and inflation continue to make inroads in their earnings.
The President's Panel on Nonpublic Education has reported that nonpublic school enrollment has been declining at a rate of 6 percent a year. In addition to nonreligious private schools, there are of course many Jewish and Christian schools who are facing serious financial problems. For example, Roman Catholic schools, which comprise the bulk of nonpublic schools, have been forced to close hundreds of schools in the face of increasing costs. A major problem facing these schools is their inability to compete with public schools in meeting the salary demands of lay teachers. Compounding the problem is that the number of lay teachers has steadily increased as the number of members of religious orders engaged in teaching has steadily decreased. People of low and middle income who want their children to have the benefits of religious instruction as well as academic instruction are finding it next to impossible to meet both the increased tuition costs of the parochial schools and the ever-increasing property taxes needed to support public schools. Increasingly, these parents are being forced to shift their children to the public school system. This trend, if it continues, will seriously aggravate the existing critical situation faced by public institutions.
We must not allow our nonpublic schools to die. They have been making an important contribution to American education and to society as a whole since the founding of this Nation and play a special role in education, especially in our urban areas. In Philadelphia enrollment in nonpublic schools represents 33.6 percent of all students, in New York 24.3 percent and in Chicago 27.3 percent. In the inner city, the nonpublic school is often the only opportunity for quality education, in addition to the salutary influence it has in the community. And yet, these schools are probably in the greatest danger of closing for financial reasons.
In my opinion, Federal tax relief for the individual family is the best way to help assure the continuance of our private system of education. It would ease the pressure on the public school system by
enabling more parents to send their children to nonpublic schools for the first time or to assure their continuing attendance at such schools. The use of the tax system to give relief to parents is preferable to grants and subsidies to the nonpublic schools themselves. Aside from the constitutional problems such direct aid would involve, there would be no reason for Federal involvement in the educational programs of the nonpublic schools, since the parents, not the schools, would be the recipients of such benefits. Federal control of the curriculum and activities of the private school, especially the religiously oriented schools is a situation which must be avoided.
Within the framework of tax relief, I believe the tax credit approach for all educational expenditures, including trade schools and higher education, as proposed by my legislation, is the best option. It is superior to a tax deduction for two reasons: (1) It may be taken even when the taxpayer does not itemize his deductions, and (2) it provides a greater benefit to low- and middle-income taxpayers than an itemized deduction.
My bill would provide a tax credit for educational expenses equal to the sum of 100 percent of so much of such expenses as does not exceed $200; or, 75 percent of so much of such expenses as exceeds $200 but does not exceed $500; or, 25 percent of so much of such expenses as exceeds $500 but does not exceed $1,500.
Under our present tax laws we have numerous examples of allowable deductions for private investment to serve the public good. Deductions for charitable contributions to religious and educational institutions are particularly apt. Present tax laws also permit persons who pay taxes to a State or local government for various purposes to deduct these taxes on their Federal returns. Businessmen benefit from deductions for numerous expenses incidental to their activities. Certainly, payments made by parents for education ought to receive similar treatment.
Those who criticize the revenue loss involved in this proposal are shortsighted. If nonpublic schools disappeared from the scene, it is estimated that public school operating costs of $3 to $5 billion annually would be added to the burden of the taxpayer. It is estimated that the enactment of legislation such as my bill, H.R. 14595, would result in an annual revenue loss of $584 million with the bulk of the relief occurring in the middle-income groups. If dollars were the only consideration, these figures would be argument enough for the credit.
But dollars are not the only consideration. Americans want to retain the pluralism in our society that has been the hallmark of its democratic institutions. Our society wants and deserves alternatives to public education. This legislation is a major step in assuring that we retain them in the future. I urge favorable consideration by this committee.
Mr. BURKE. Thank you for your fine statement, Mr. Hogan. Are there any questions? If not, our thanks to you for coming to the committee.
Our next witness today is Hon. James J. Delaney of New York. We welcome you to the committee. Please identify yourself for the record and you will be recognized.
STATEMENT OF HON. JAMES J. DELANEY, A REPRESENTATIVE IN
CONGRESS FROM THE STATE OF NEW YORK
Mr. DELANEY. Mr. Chairman, and members of the committee, I appreciate this opportunity to express my views on legislation which would enhance and encourage a pluralistic system of education.
This is a matter of vital importance to our Nation, and a principle for which I have been fighting for more than 10 years.
My bill, H.R. 16555, is very similar to legislation you and other members of this distinguished committee have introduced, Mr. Chairman. It provides a Federal matching payment of 50 percent to the States to assist in equalizing educational opportunities in public schools throughout the Nation. Also, it allows a tuition tax credit of up to $200 per year with respect to each child attending nonpublic elementary and secondary schools.
Educational diversity is a significant natural resource. It is vital to our democratic system of justice. Enactment of my proposal would help to assure a vigorous competitive system of education in this country. At the same time it would protect the inalienable rights of all parents to freely choose the system of instruction they consider best for their children.
The demise or destruction of the nonpublic school system would do irreparable harm to the national interest. It is imperative that this be prevented.
Presently, more than 512 million students are educated in America's nonpublic elementary and secondary schools.
In my own area, the Catholic school system in New York City alone educates some 300,000 students. This group of pupils is larger than any single urban public school system in the United States, with the exception of New York City itself, Los Angeles, and Chicago.
In New York State, according to the U.S. Office of Education, some 837,000 students attend nonpublic schools.
It is obvious that the closing of these schools would be a devastating blow not only to the parents and schools involved, but it would also impose a tremendous additional burden on all American taxpayers.
Based on the most recent statistics published by the U.S. Office of Education, it would cost taxpayers $438.3 million annually to absorb New York City's Catholic elementary and secondary school students.
If all nonpublic school students in New York State were placed in the public school system, the estimated yearly cost to the taxpayers would be approximately $1,147 million.
In the event all nonpublic schools in the Nation were forced to close, the additional burden on America's taxpayers would be nearly $5 billion annually.
It must be emphasized that these figures are estimates based on the most recent available statistics, which are a year or two old. We all know that costs are rising throughout the economy. The costs of elementary and secondary education, whether in public or nonpublic schools, is no exception.
This is borne out by the fact that when I first introduced my tuition voucher proposal in 1962, the national average cost for current expenditures per pupil in public elementary and secondary schools was $419. For the 1970–71 school year this figure was estimated at $858. This shows a rise of more than 200 percent in 10 years.
However, these figures do not reflect differences in costs in various school systems throughout the country. Also, they do not take into account the cost of capital outlays and interest expenses involved in constructing the school buildings necessary to teach these students.
It is a well-known fact that nonpublic schools can educate children at significantly less expense than public schools. Therefore, the continued existence of nonpublic schools works as an effective brake on the rising costs to taxpayers of public school expenses.
But far more than costs are involved. The overriding principle of freedom—the underlying basis for our system of government-is at stake.
All parents have a constitutional right to choose nonpublic schools for the education of their children, so long as those schools satisfy the compulsory educational laws of the States. However, not all parents can afford to exercise this right.
Citizens who choose education in nonpublic schools are also required to support public schools with their taxes. They do not seek to be excused from responsibility to financially support public education. Rightfully, they do look to the Government for a modicum of assistance to enable them to freely exercise their right to choose the form of schooling they prefer.
Our Government has a long history of assisting citizens to satisfy their needs and aspirations in many other areas of life. Therefore, it is is reasonable to expect it to assist those individuals who wish to carry out their fundamental right to educate their children in the schools of their choice.
The modest aid provided by this legislation will help to give full meaning to this Nation's fundamental commitment to freedom for all its citizens. This bill and related measures are not the final answer to resolving the intensifying crisis in our pluralistic system of education. However, it is a significant step in the right direction, and I strongly urge that a bill along these lines be reported out as quickly as possible for action by the House.
Mr. BURKE. The committee thanks you for giving us your views here today. If there are no questions, thank you, sir.
The committee record will remain open for receipt of data and material until the close of business Friday, September 15, 1972.
The committee now stands adjourned to meet at 10 a.m., Monday for executive session, and the members of the committee will be informed about the precise subject matter prior to that time.
The committee stands adjourned until 10 a.m. Monday morning.
(Whereupon, at 12:15 p.m., the committee adjourned the public hearings.)
(The following material was supplied to the committee for inclusion in the record:)