(Extensions of Remarks - February 05, 2002)

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[Extensions of Remarks]
[Page E84]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office []



                       HON. CHRISTOPHER H. SMITH

                             of new jersey

                    in the house of representatives

                       Tuesday, February 5, 2002

  Mr. SMITH of New Jersey. Mr. Speaker, today I am introducing 
legislation designed to ensure the federal government appropriately 
assists parents with the financial burdens associated with their 
child's education. The legislation gives parents more options, and 
helps them as they search out the best educational setting and tools 
for their children.
  To this end, the Education, Achievement, and Opportunity Act will 
provide refundable tuition tax credits per year, per child, for 
educational expenses incurred by parents for elementary and secondary 
school. The legislation would allow parents sending their child to an 
elementary school up to $2,500 in tax relief, and parents with children 
in a Catholic or parochial high school could claim up to $3,500 in 
  Parents who send their child to a Catholic school already pay twice 
for their child's education: once through their taxes, and a second 
time for the tuition. These out-of-pocket expenses can really add up 
and pose an enormous obstacle to the child's lifetime learning 
opportunities. Without federal support, many parents struggle--and in 
some cases forgo--a Catholic school education, or any education in a 
spiritual setting, because the costs are so high.
  In my own district in New Jersey, a parent who feels Catholic schools 
are best suited for their child will pay somewhere between $1,840 and 
$2,566 in tuition costs. If you want to send your child to a parochial 
high school in the central New Jersey area, a parent is looking at an 
average tuition bill of $5,571 per student, per year. In other areas of 
the country, the costs are very similar.
  Middle-class and lower-income families just cannot--and should not 
have to--absorb these kinds of costs without some help or recognition 
from the government. America's children have unique educational needs 
and goals, and parents are the ones who are best qualified to decide 
what's in their child's best interest. It just isn't fair to deny a 
child the ability to pursue the educational program best suited to his/
her needs simply because the child's parents do not have the resources 
to afford the education program of their choice.
  We have 59,000,000 youngsters in elementary and secondary school 
across the U.S.; about 10 percent of these students are enrolled in 
private, parochial and rabbinical schools. Those families who are 
already sending their children to such schools, and others planning to 
send their children to them, would benefit enormously from this 
proposal, because they are often struggling to make ends meet.
  Importantly, my education proposal is a tax credit, rather than a 
voucher, so the total amount of education resources available for all 
school age children will increase. Under a voucher system, if a school 
loses enrolled students to a competing school, that school may lose 
funding and have fewer resources available for their educational 
program. Under my plan, that outcome is avoided, because it is a ``win-
win'' scenario, whereas voucher programs can become a zero-sum 
situation with ``winners and losers.''
  I was very pleased that President Bush's $1.35 trillion tax cut 
reform legislation--The Economic Growth and Tax Relief Reconciliation 
Act of 2001, now P.L. 107-16 included several child and family tax 
credits to help individuals with their educational priorities. The Bush 
Tax Cut was a solid down payment to help parents meet the educational 
needs of their children. Parents can now save up to $2,000 per year in 
their Education Savings Accounts, and the interest that builds up in 
them is tax free. When the parent withdraws money for elementary or 
secondary school expenses, the withdrawal is excluded from their 
taxable income.
  If we are to truly make good on our promise that ``no child is left 
behind,'' we must ensure that Catholic schools are included in this 
national promise and goal. A child is a child, regardless of what 
school system they are enrolled. The children enrolled in Catholic, 
private, and rabbinical schools deserve nothing less than our full 
support and compassion.
  The benefits of my legislation are available to any child, no matter 
what their race, creed, or national origin. And make no mistake: the 
public school system will continue to remain the backbone of our 
nation's education system. But we must never forget that the public 
school system was created to serve students--not the other way around. 
If a student is performing poorly at a particular school, a parent 
should have the opportunity to enroll the child in another appropriate 
setting which has a better chance to meet the child's needs.
  I urge my colleagues to support the Education, Achievement, and 
Opportunity Act.