Ted Cruz pushes for private school funding as GOP blocks money for public education

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After complaining about the House relief bill, Ted Cruz is demanding $5 billion to subsidize parochial and private education.

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) is reportedly demanding his party's $500 billion coronavirus relief bill include $5 billion for private and parochial education. But he and the Senate Republican majority have blocked consideration of a House-passed bill that would have provided nearly $1 trillion to cash-strapped states and localities, including money to help keep public schools afloat.

The Washington Post reported on Friday that Cruz's push to include a $5 billion tax credit to refund donations to private and parochial education scholarships was imperiling Senate Republicans' latest relief proposal. The paper noted that many of his GOP colleagues are against including the provision in their bill, for either strategic or policy reasons.

Cruz's proposal has been pushed by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, who, during a recent interview on SiriusXM, described it as a way to "help families who are more vulnerable and don’t have the resources that many better-off families have had." It would essentially provide back-door school vouchers by giving donors to state-level scholarship funds that pay for educational expenses a 100% tax credit for their payments.

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"The challenges parents are facing right now are enormous. Given that public schools may not reopen this fall — families need real options to continue their children's education," Cruz said last month as he introduced his Coronavirus Emergency Education Grants Act bill. "This bill will provide families with the resources needed to support their children's education — including tuition, instructional materials, tutoring, and education therapies for students with disabilities."

The House of Representatives passed a $3 trillion emergency relief bill in May. It contained $915 billion to help state and local governments address budget shortfalls and avoid public education cuts and $100 billion in direct emergency funds for education access. Senate Republicans blocked the bill, refusing to even vote on it.

Cruz was especially vocal in his opposition, calling the legislation a "monstrosity" and "a windfall for [Speaker Nancy Pelosi's] radical liberal agenda."

In an email on Friday, a spokesperson wrote that "Sen. Cruz been a leading advocate for school choice in the Senate," noting that, "Throughout the pandemic, he has urged his colleagues to focus on solutions that will help get Americans safely back to work and our kids safely back into the classroom, including provisions of his Education Freedom Scholarship and Opportunity Act, which would give families the resources they need to ensure their children have access to a quality education in these uncertain times.”

Senate Republicans have struggled to agree on any relief legislation at all.

With or without Cruz's provision, the GOP's bill seems unlikely to become law. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer tweeted Thursday that the proposal was "emaciated" and "completely inadequate" for the nation's needs.

As of Friday, the nation's unemployment rate remained over 8%, with more than 10 million Americans out of work.

This article was updated to correctly cite DeVos' comments in a recent interview on SiriusXM.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.