I’ve been calling Senator Phyllis Heineman’s (R-13/Sioux Falls) self-serving “tax-credit scholarships” stealth vouchers since she first floated the plan in the 2015 Legislature. Now that Heineman’s school-privatization handout to church schools and insurance companies is law, the press isn’t even calling them stealthy; in Megan Raposa’s reporting, they’re plain vouchers… and so far, they have no money:
Dozens of families statewide have expressed interest in vouchers since the application became available Monday. With no contributions, though, the state group tasked with doling out funds doesn’t have answers for parents wondering how much money, if any, they can expect [Megan Raposa, “No Money, Few Answers for Private School Vouchers,” that Sioux Falls paper, 2016.08.02].
Let’s not dance on the grave of this educationally destructive program yet. The law took effect July 1, so the lumbering corporate giants of insurance—the only industry sector allowed to take part in this state subsidy—may need more than a month to put their voucher plan to undermine public education into effect. But given how fast the good neighbors at State Farm pop up at accidents in the commercials, I’d think they’d have found a way to have money in the chute for stealth vouchers faster than appears to be the case.
Senator Heineman tells Raposa she remains “very hopeful” that
her husband needy kids will be able to cash in on public dollars for religious education this fall.
- Sen. Heineman sits on the board of South Dakota Partners in Education, the non-profit formed to administer the stealth vouchers. Also helping undermine public education: Rep. Brian Gosch (R/32-Rapid City), Great Plains Lutheran superintendent Eric Brown, attorney and Sioux Falls Catholic Schools board member Dan Fritz, director of Sioux Falls Diocese Catholic Schools Katie Mellor, attorney and Sioux Falls Christian Schools board member Scott Perrenoud, and Rapid City Catholic Schools development director Robert Satter.
- SDPE’s online application for the Heineman stealth vouchers lists the income guidelines for eligibility. The SDPE chart lists the maximum income for a single-member household to qualify for a church school voucher is $32,663. I’m trying to figure out how many single-member households have kids to send to O’Gorman.
- SDPE lists 37 schools qualified to accept the Heineman stealth vouchers. All 37 are Christian schools, meaning Heineman’s stealth voucher program excludes families seeking Muslim, Jewish, or secular education. As SDEA president Mary McCorkle reminded us in June, “Our public schools are the great equalizer, the provider of opportunity for all our students.”