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Educational policy analysis archives.
n Vol. 8, no. 38 (August 01, 2000).
Tempe, Ariz. :
b Arizona State University ;
Tampa, Fla. :
University of South Florida.
c August 01, 2000
Effects on funding equity of the Arizona tax credit law / Glen Y. Wilson.
Arizona State University.
University of South Florida.
t Education Policy Analysis Archives (EPAA)
1 of 13 Volume 8 Number 38August 1, 2000ISSN 1068-2341 A peer-reviewed scholarly electronic journal Editor: Gene V Glass, College of Education Arizona State University Copyright 2000, the EDUCATION POLICY ANALYSIS ARCHIVES. Permission is hereby granted to copy any article if EPAA is credited and copies are not sold. Articles appearing in EPAA are abstracted in the Current Index to Journals in Education by the ERIC Clearinghouse on Assessment and Evaluation and are permanently archived in Resources in Education Effects on Funding Equity of the Arizona Tax Credit Law Glen Y. Wilson Arizona State UniversityAbstract This article examines the results from the first ye ar (1998) of the Arizona Education Tax Credit program. The tax credit law al lows individuals a dollarfor-dollar tax credit of $500 for donations to private schools and a dollar-for-dollar tax credit of $200 for donations to public schools. Although one justification for this statute was tha t it would help lower income students, the primary beneficiaries of this program tend to be the relatively well off. The author concludes that Ariz ona's tax credit law increases educational funding inequity in Arizona. Data for 1999, only recently made available, show a 159.1 percent incre ase in total contributions and an exacerbation of the trends not ed here. This article is one of four on the Arizona Tax Cred it Law: Welner: Taxing the Establishment Clause Moses: Hidden Considerations of Justice Rud: Moral Considerations
2 of 13Introduction Education tax credits are a relatively new mechanism intended to promote and fund school choice by means of the tax system. In Arizon a's first regular legislative session in 1997, House Bill 2074 was passed and on April 7, 19 97 was signed into law by Arizona Governor Fife Symington as A.R.S. § 43-1089. Beginn ing with the 1998 tax year, A.R.S. § 43-1089 created a private school tuition o rganization individual income tax credit and a public school extracurricular activity fee individual income tax credit. With the private school tax credit, Arizona taxpayers were granted a full and direct credit against state income taxes for contributions up to $500 to school tuition organizations (STOs). STOs then provide grants to s tudents to attend private schools. A.R.S. § 43-1089 contains very few restrictions as to how the proceeds from this tax credit are to be used. The major restrictions are: that taxpayers claiming this credit may not earmark their donation to their own dependents, that STOs allocate at least 90 percent of their annual revenue for "educational sc holarships" or "tuition grants," and that STOs provide scholarships or grants without li miting availability to only students of one school (A.R.S. § 43-1089). A similar $200 tax credit is also available for contributions to public schools; however, these contributions may only be used for e xtracurricular activities that require a student fee. Examples provided in the statute inc lude: band uniforms, equipment or uniforms for varsity athletic activities and scient ific laboratory materials (A.R.S. § 43-1089.01). Originally, contributions to public sc hools did not qualify for this credit because the legislative bill restricted the tax cre dit to "a nongovernmental primary or secondary school" of the "parents' choice" [A.R.S. § 43-1089 (E) (1), (2)]. As a compromise with opponents of the legislative bill, the law as finally enacted included a $200 tax credit for contributions to K-12 public sc hools. To tax professionals, provisions such as ta x credits and tax deductions are known as tax expenditures. Tax expenditures are special p references embedded in the tax code that are intended to benefit particular activities or groups. Tax expenditures cause a loss of tax revenue and thus, are functionally equivalen t to government spending programs. Surrey and McDaniel (1985) stated the following abo ut tax expenditures: Whatever their form, these departures from the norm ative tax structure represent government spending for favored activitie s or groups, effected through the tax system rather than through direct g rants, loans, or other forms of governmental assistance .These tax expendi tures in effect represent monetary assistance provided by the gover nment (p. 3). It should be noted that unlike tax deductions allow ed for general charitable giving, Arizona's education tax credit provides a full reim bursement to those who contribute. Thus, the tax credit plan does not function as a st imulus to charitable giving, but instead functions to allow self-selected taxpayers to redir ect funds, that would otherwise flow into state accounts, to private entities of their o wn choosing. A major justification for school choice pro grams has been to offer additional educational alternatives to low-income families. Th e Arizona tax credit law was promoted with a similar justification. The Arizona Republic in a recent story on the tax credit program reported that "Supporters of the cre dit for private school scholarships, including Rep. Mark Anderson, R-Mesa, who sponsored the legislation, touted it as a way to send kids to private school who otherwise co uldn't afford to go" (Bland, 2000).
3 of 13Arizona Supreme Court Chief Justice Thomas B. Zlake t offered similar reasoning in the opinion upholding the school tax credit law. Zlaket wrote: "Until now, low-income parents may have been coerced into accepting public education Arizona's tax credit achieves a higher degree of parity by making privat e schools more accessible and providing alternatives to public education" [Kotter man v. Killian, No. CV-97-0412-SA (1999)]. If such published accounts were accurate, it would appear that the primary intended beneficiaries of the law could be construe d as low-income students and their families with a primary intended effect of increase d educational choice (increased access to private schooling). For public schools, the just ification appears to be to assist parents in paying for public school extracurricular activit ies. To extend the justification for the private school tax credit to the extracurricular pu blic school tax credit would logically mean that the primary beneficiaries of the public s chool tax credit should be students and families that face hardship in paying extracurr icular fees. However, to opponents, education tax credit s are poor public policy and a dangerous road on which to travel. In addition to f undamental constitutional questions of separation of church and state, many critics believ e that tax expenditures, such as tax credits, tend to be highly inequitable. Wealthy ind ividuals may be much more likely to take advantage of them than lower-income individual s, who may not even earn enough income to participate in the program. For example, Weinberg (1987) calculated that for FY 1985, at least 50 percent of the total benefits provided by tax expenditures through the U.S. individual income taxation system went to the top 20 percent of families (in terms of income). The poorest 40 percent of familie s (by income) received less than 20 percent of the total benefits offered through tax e xpenditures. Under Arizona's plan, those participating receive a full reimbursement of their contribution and thus, do not actually incur any costs at all. Therefore, Arizona 's plan appears to allow higher-income individuals to direct a portion of state tax revenu e to public or private schools while possibly denying lower-income individuals an equal real opportunity to do the same. Another objection to the use of tax credits relates to the distributional pattern that critics believe will occur. Critics have charged that under this plan, resources will not flow to where needs are the greatestthat in the end, this plan will be just another subsidy for the middle-class.Research Design The purpose of the quantitative analysis re ported here is to describe the distribution of tax credit contributions in terms of student pov erty/wealth, contributor poverty/wealth, enrollment and student achievement. Since the data in hand constitute a full census of the education tax credit records for the 1998 tax year, no questions of statistical inference arise. Rather, the purpose of the data analysis will be to show the different levels of contributions in terms of diffe rent factors. Data Collection and Preparation Complete records of all Calendar Year 1998 contributions (as of March 26, 1999) under the education tax credit law were obtained fr om the Arizona Department of Revenue (ADOR). Approximately 60,000 contributions were documented, accounting for about $7.7 million dollars. The number of contr ibutions and the total amount contributed to the recipient school were provided; no taxpayer identification (neither
4 of 13 personal identity, location nor income level) was i ncluded. The data contained listings for 1,144 K-12 public schools. Data on public schoo ls participating in the federal free/reduced meal program (F/R meal) were obtained from the Arizona Department of Education (ADE). The number of students eligible fo r the F/R meal program as well as the total school enrollment were contained in the d ata from ADE. After combining the two data records, there were 929 public schools (81 .2% of the total) for which there was data on both measures (tax credit contributions and F/R meal program). Schools for which there was no tax credit contribution listing and/or no free/reduced meal program data were not included in the analysis. For the pub lic schools with data on the two elements of interest, information as to the school' s 1997-98 student performance on the state-mandated Stanford-9 Achievement Test was adde d for each school. For elementary schools, the 4 th grade reading and math individual percentile ranks were used; for middle/junior high schools, 7 th grade reading and math individual percentile ranks were employed; and for high schools, 9 th grade reading and math individual percentile ranks were used. If the particular score for a school was missing, the closest available score was used. For example, if the 4 th grade reading or math score was missing for an elementary school, then the closest available score such as the 3 rd grade score for that particular school was used. The reading and math in dividual percentile ranks were summed and divided by 2 to provide a combined score for each school. The 929 public schools in the dataset were placed into quarters ba sed on the percentage of a school's students eligible for F/R meal program. In this dat aset, these percentages ranged from 1 to 100 percent of schools' enrollment. The data on tax credit claimants (Tables 4 7) are based on ADOR's review of individual tax returns. As of September 23, 1999, a pproximately 25,000 individual tax returns have been reviewed. ADOR estimates that nea rly 17,000 tax returns filed prior to September 1, 1999 have yet to be reviewed. Any tax returns filed after September 1, 1999 and before the end of calendar year 1999 will also require review in order to have complete first year results. The data concerning pr ivate schools and School Tuition Organizations (table 8) were obtained from ADOR, th e Center for Market-based Education, and telephone calls to individual STOs. Findings: Public Schools After the ADOR tax credit and ADE F/R Meal Program data records were combined, there were 929 public schools enrolling 6 72,211 students, for which there was data on both measures of interest (contribution s under the tax credit program and F/R meal program). Stanford Achievement Test data w ere then added to the dataset and schools were arranged into quarters on the basis of relative poverty/wealth. Summary tables were developed for several items of interest (school characteristics, school basis contribution data and student basis contribution da ta). Characteristics of the schools in the dataset are shown in Table 1. Table 1 Public School Characteristics All Poorest Second Second Wealthiest
5 of 13 SchoolsQuarter Poorest Quarter Wealthiest Quarter Quarter Number of Schools 929232232233232 School Enrollment 672,211142,760164,087168,025197,339 Percent of Total School Enrollment 100.0%21.2%24.4%25.0%29.4% Mean School Enrollment 723.6 615.3 707.3 721.1 850.6 Mean Percentage of Students Eligible for F/R Meal Program 51.2%87.1%63.3%40.5%14.0% Mean Combined Reading/Math SAT-9 Percentile RankScore 48.730.443.353.566.6 Sources: Arizona Department of Education and Arizon a Department of Revenue Table 1 shows the extent of the differences in the poverty/wealth measure and achievement measure between the quarters formed aro und relative poverty/wealth of the schools. The mean percentage of students eligible f or the F/R meal program represents relative differences in poverty for a school's stud ent body. The overall mean percentage of students eligible for the F/R meal program was 5 1.2 percent with a standard deviation of 28.01. When viewed by quarters based on poverty/ wealth, the mean percentage of students eligible for the F/R meal program ranged f rom 87.1 percent (SD = 6.94) in the poorest quarter to 14.0 percent (SD = 7.36) in the wealthiest quarter. As for achievement differences represented by Stanford-9 results, the mean combined reading/math individual percentile rank score for all schools wa s slightly below midpoint at 48.7 (SD = 18.75); for schools in the poorest quarter the sc ore was 30.4 (SD = 11.85) and for the wealthiest 25 percent of schools it was 66.5 (SD = 9.61). Table 2 accounts for a total of $5,925,436 contributed to 929 public K-12 schools from 53,294 separate donations. 163 schools (17.5%) did not receive any money under this program. A comparison of the distribution of t ax credit contributions between the poorest and wealthiest quarters reveals that wealth y schools received a disproportionately large number of donations as wel l as a disproportionately large amount of the total resources that were distributed under this program. In terms of the number of contributions, the wealthiest quarter of schools received 29,756 separate donations, a mean of 128.3 (SD = 204.94) donations per school. The poorest quarter received 4,097 separate donations, a mean of 17.7 ( SD = 39.62) donations per school. Thus, the wealthiest quarter received 55.8 percent of all contributions while the poorest quarter accounted for 7.7 percent. This resulted in schools in the wealthiest quarter receiving a mean amount of $13,448 (SD = $14,858) a nd the schools in the poorest quarter receiving a mean amount of $2,859 (SD = $6, 763). In the wealthiest group, 5 schools (2.2%) did not receive any money, while in the poorest quarter, 79 schools (34.1%) did not receive any funds. Fully 52.7 perce nt of the amount contributed to public schools went to the wealthiest 25 percent of schools while the poorest 25 percent of schools received 11.2 percent.
6 of 13 Table 2 School Basis Contribution Data All Schools Poorest Quarter Second Poorest Quarter Second Wealthiest Quarter Wealthiest Quarter Amount Donated $5,925,436$663,272$782,417$1,359,790$3,119,958 Percent of Total Amount Donated 100.0%11.2%13.2%22.9%52.7% Number of Donations 53,2944,0976,21813,22329,756 Percent of Total Donations 100.0%7.7%11.7%24.8%55.8% Per School Donation $6,378.29$2,858.93$3,372.49$5,836.01$13,448.09 Sources: Arizona Department of Education and Arizon a Department of Revenue A regression analysis was conducted to eval uate the relationship between the dependent variable of donation amount to public sch ools and the independent variable of percentage of a public school's students eligible f or F/R meal program. A first-order quadratic regression model provided the best fit be tween the independent and dependent variables, R = .409, R 2 = .167, Adjusted R 2 = .165, F (2, 926) = 92.75, p < .001. The beta weight for the independent variable was negati ve, indicating that schools with higher percentages of students eligible for the F/R meal program (higher poverty) tended to receive lower donation amounts through the tax c redit program. Table 3 presents tax credit donation data o n a per student basis. A comparison of the wealthiest quarter and the poorest quarter show s that the wealthiest quarter received an average of $15.81 per enrolled student while the poorest quarter received an average of $4.65, a difference of 70.6 percent. In the weal thiest quarter, there was 1 donation received for every 6.6 enrolled students, compared with 1 donation received for every 34.8 enrolled students in the poorest quarter.Table 3 Student Basis Contribution Data All Schools Poorest Quarter Second Poorest Quarter Second Wealthiest Quarter Wealthiest Quarter Per Student Donation $8.81$4.65$4.77$8.09$15.81
7 of 13 Number of Students Per Each Donation 12.634.826.412.76.6 Sources: Arizona Department of Education and Arizon a Department of Revenue. Table 4 presents available data on the dist ribution of public school tax credits by the claimant's federal adjusted gross income (FAGI) Placing the tax credit claimants into groups based on their FAGI shows that the larg est group of claimants (49. 2%), fall into the $50,000 to $100,000 group. This group acco unted for 49.1 percent of the total credits for public schools. Table 4 Public School Tax Credit by Claimants' Federal Adju sted Gross Income Total $20,000 or less FAGI $20,000 to $50,000 FAGI $50,000 to $100,000 FAGI $100,000 to $500,000 FAGI Over $500,000 FAGI Number of donations 16,9303893,9998,3224,100120 Percentage of Total Donations 100.0%2.3%23.6%49.2%24.2%0.7% Total Credits $3,043,456$65,887$693,208$1,493,354$768,253$22,754 Percentage of Total Credits 100.0%2.2%22.8%49.1%25.2%0.7% Average Size of Donation $179.77$169.38$173.35$179.45$187.38$189.62 Source: Arizona Department of Revenue (Data as of A ugust 1999)Findings: Private Schools According to ADOR tax credit records, there were 15 STOs actively soliciting donations in calendar year 1998. Of these 15 STOs, 10 were religiously affiliated, three were nonreligious, one is of unknown status, and on e is no longer active. The 15 STOs reported receiving $1,815,799 from 4,246 separate d onations. Table 5 shows the distribution of donations by type of STO. Fully 95. 3 percent of the funds donated went to religiously oriented STOs. Table 5 Donation Data Reported by School Tuition Organizati ons (STOs)
8 of 13 Total STOs Religious affiliated STOs Nonreligious STOs STOs No longer active or of Unknown status Number of STOs 151032 Number of Donations 4,2464,04513269 Amount Donated $1,815,799$1,731,019$54,805$29,975 Percentage of Total Amount Donated 100.0%95.3%3.0%1.7% Source: Arizona Department of Revenue (Data as of A ugust 1999) The U.S. Department of Education in the Digest of Education Statistics, 1999 estimates that in the fall of 1997 there were 44,99 1 students enrolled in private elementary and secondary schools in Arizona. From t he Fall of 1993 to the Fall of 1997, there was an increase of 1,226 private school stude nts for an average annual increase of 307 students. Applying this rate of increase to the Fall 1997 figures produces a Fall 1998 private school enrollment estimate of 45,298. There fore, the average per student donation for private schools is estimated to be app roximately $40.09 (Table 6). Table 6 Estimated Per Student Basis Donation Data for Publi c and Private SchoolsPublic SchoolsPrivate Schools Per Student Donation $8.81$40.09 Number of Students Per Each Donation 12.610.7 Sources: Digest of Education Statistics, 1999 and A rizona Department of Revenue For the first year of the tax credit, many STOs were reportedly reluctant to distribute revenues for scholarships until the cour t challenges were decided (Meyer and Smith, 1999). Seven STOs reported information about the amount and numbers of scholarships given (one STO did not provide the num ber of scholarships given). These data are summarized in Table 7. Table 7 Scholarship Data Reported by School Tuition Organiz ations (STOs)STO Number of Donations Total Amount Average Scholarship Amount Arizona Scholarships and Tuition 42$26,360$627.62 Christian Scholarship Fund of Arizona 163$68,235$418.62
9 of 13 Higher Education for Lutherans Program 116$31,380$270.52 Northern Arizona Christian School Scholarship 30$35,000$1,167.67 St. Gregory/Green Fields Scholarship 82$32,480$396.10 Southern Arizona Foundation for Education 56$22,250$397.32 Total 489$215,705$411.11 Source: Arizona Department of Revenue (Data as of A ugust 1999) STO reports to ADOR indicated that 417 scho larships (85.3%) averaged below 500 dollars, with 42 (8.6%) between $500 and $1,000 and 30 (6.1%) above $1,000. The low scholarship award amounts suggests that the tax cre dit is functioning more as a middle class subsidy rather than offering increased access for low income students. Low-income families would likely continue to find it financial ly difficult to enroll their children in private schools with such low scholarship assistanc e. Similar to Table 4 for public schools, Tabl e 8 presents available data on the distribution of tax credits by the claimant's feder al adjusted gross income (FAGI), but this time for private schools. Placing the tax cred it claimants into groups based on their FAGI shows that the largest group of claimants (40. 9%), fall into the $50,000 to $100,000 group. The median FAGI for the $50,000 to $100,000 group was slightly over $70,000. This group claimed 41.7 percent of the tot al credits for public schools claimed. Table 8 Private School Tax Credit by Claimants' Federal Adj usted Gross Income (FAGI) Total $20,000 or less FAGI $20,000 to $50,000 FAGI $50,000 to $100,000 FAGI $100,000 to $500,000 FAGI Over $500,000 FAGI Number of donations 2,579524921,05590674 Percentage of Total Donations 100.0%2.0%19.1%40.9%35.1%2.9% Total Credits $1,133,636$14,311$187,130$472,345$424,500$35,350 Percentage of Total Credits 100.0%1.3%16.5%41.7%37.4%3.1% Average Size of Donation $439.56$275.21$380.35$447.72$468.54$477.70
10 of 13Source: Arizona Department of Revenue (Data as of A ugust 1999) Compared with public schools, the results f or private schools were somewhat more skewed toward the wealthy, with those in the $100,0 00 to $500,000 FAGI group accounting for 37.4 percent of the STO credits vers us 25.2 percent of the public school credits. Conclusion Arizona's education tax credit law results in serious inequities in who has access to this credit, and who receives the proceeds. The str ongest argument and major justification for this tax credit program was that it would benefit lower income students and offer them increased access to private schoolin g. Overall, the evidence strongly suggests that lower income students are not benefit ing from this program. In public schools, the schools with wealthier families and hi gher standardized test scores are receiving most of the proceeds from this program wh ile schools with students from poorer families and lower test scores are receiving much less. According to the analysis, 52.7 percent of the total amount contributed went t o the wealthiest 25 percent of schools while the poorest 25 percent of schools received 11 .2 percent. The average STO scholarship award amount was $411.11, which tends t o cast doubt that such scholarships are enabling many lowincome students to begin att ending private schools. The evidence also suggests inequity in who has access to this tax credit. The data showed that 75.1 percent of the public school porti on of tax credits provided through the education tax credit program went to donators with federal adjusted gross income of $50,000 or more. For private school donations, the results were even more highly skewed toward the wealthy. For private school donat ors, 82.2 percent of the tax credits claimed went to those with federal adjusted gross i ncome of $50,000 or more. The tax credit for school tuition organizat ions that provide scholarships for students attending private or religious schools is almost so lely benefiting religiously oriented schools. The data shows that 95.3 percent of all pr ivate tax credit donations went to religiously oriented school tuition organizations. Data for the second year of the Arizona's E ducation Tax Credit program, only recently made available, show a 60.4 percent increa se in public school donations and a 633.3 percent increase in private school donations over the prior year's results. Preliminary indications are that the second year da ta shows an exacerbation of the trends noted in the first year data (Bland, 2000). Overall, the evidence from this analysis in dicates that students from wealthier families and wealthier donators are the primary ben eficiaries of this tax credit statute, rather than low-income students and families. This tax credit has functioned to increase the funding inequity which was already a problem an d source of contention in Arizona's school system.ReferencesBland, K. (2000, April 9). School tax credits wide open to abuse. The Arizona Republic, pp. A1, A22.Center for Market-based Education. (2000, March 15) Extra Credit: Arizona Tuition Tax Credits. [Online]. Available: http://www.cmbe.o rg/extracredit.htm. [August 1,
11 of 13 2000]Kahne, J. (1996). Reframing educational policy: Democracy, community and the individual New York: Teachers College Press. MacRae, D., & Whittington, D. (1997). Expert advice for policy choice: Analysis & discourse Washington DC: Georgetown University Press. Meyer, G. & Smith, E. (1999, September 23). Arizona 's individual income tax credits for schools. Phoenix: Arizona Department of Revenue Peterson, P. E. (1999). Top ten questions asked abo ut school choice. In D. Ravitch (ed.), Brookings papers on education policy, 1999 (pp. 371-418). Washington DC: Brookings Institution Press.Peterson, P. E. (1998). School choice: A report car d. In P. E. Peterson & B. C. Hassel (eds.), Learning from school choice. (pp. 3-32). Washington DC: Brookings Institution Press.Surrey, S. S., & McDaniel, P. R.. (1985). Tax expenditures Cambridge MA: Harvard University Press.Walsh, M. (1999, February 3). Tax credits pass must er in Arizona. Edweek [Online]. Available: http://www.edweek.org/ew/vol-18/21ariz.h 18 [August 1, 2000] Weinberg, D. H. (1987). The distributional implicat ions of tax expenditures and comprehensive income taxation. National Tax Journal, 40 237-253.About the AuthorGlen Y. WilsonCollege of EducationArizona State UniversityTempe, AZ 85287-0211 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org B.S. Arizona State University 1985M.B.A. Arizona State University 1986Ed.M Harvard University 1998Glen Wilson is a Ph.D. student in the Division of E ducational Leadership and Policy Studies in the College of Education at Arizona Stat e University. His interests include K-12 education policy with specific interests in th e school choice movement as a reform strategy and in issues of fairness and equity relat ed to high stakes testing and school finance.Copyright 2000 by the Education Policy Analysis ArchivesThe World Wide Web address for the Education Policy Analysis Archives is epaa.asu.edu
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