Friday, November 17, 2017

Elite colleges with fat endowments are on the defensive as the GOP drags them into a D.C. tax fight

America’s elite private colleges would rather talk about anything other than their own vast wealth, but Republicans have put the institutions they have long criticized as liberal bastions on the defensive by dragging them into Washington’s messy tax fight.

Tax overhauls drafted in the House and Senate have zeroed in on the billions of dollars that top private schools have tucked away in endowments. The lawmakers want to impose a new 1.4 percent tax on annual income spun off by these vast funds, limiting the tax to the approximately 60 schools where the endowments are worth more than $250,000 per full-time student.

That has thrust the nation’s most prestigious institutions of higher learning — including Harvard, Dartmouth, and a dozen other New England schools — squarely into an intense lobbying battle over money.

Playing out in the shadow of the noisier debate over corporate tax cuts, it pits Republicans against the colleges and universities that produce the type of highly educated voters and leaders who often oppose Republican policies. And it forces the colleges into the awkward position of publicly defending their enormous wealth at a time of rising student debt and soaring tuitions.

Harvard leads the pack of total endowment with more than $36 billion, more than the entire gross domestic product of the state of Vermont. Princeton University has the top per-student endowment ratio, with more than $2.5 million for every full-time student. Even smaller schools in New England, such as Middlebury College and Bowdoin College, have endowments worth more than $1 billion.

Some of the schools “simply want to have a tax-free investment,” said Republican Representative Darrell Issa, who represents a swing district in southern California and supports taxing endowments.

“We can all talk about the poor kid who gets a scholarship, but sometimes this is about the professors and the people running the endowment and their salaries.”

Harvard president Drew Faust has pushed back against such characterizations, and in a recent statement said the tax is unnecessary because the school’s endowment “is not locked away in some chest” but “at work in the world.”

Harvard officials turned down a request to be interviewed for this story.

“Endowment proceeds fund nearly 40 percent of the university’s operations, with nearly a quarter spent directly on financial aid,” Faust said when the tax plan emerged last month. “A tax on university endowments is really a tax on the people who make up these institutions and the work they do: donors, alumni, staff, students, and faculty.’’

Though many of the wealthy schools remain tight-lipped about the Republican tax plan in public, some New England colleges are lobbying lawmakers behind the scenes as well as rallying their alumni.

Institutions used to being heard, such as Harvard, are at a disadvantage with this White House because, unlike past administrations, President Trump has largely shunned the school’s graduates for top posts. Most of the wealthiest schools in the country are also clustered in blue states on the coasts, where Trump saw little support during his 2016 campaign.

“These schools use endowments to build buildings, which employ our workers, and use it to subsidize student financial aid,” said Representative Michael Capuano, whose Cambridge district includes Harvard.

“If Harvard has a smaller endowment, they are less likely to build a building. And that hurts my construction industry, that hurts my financial services industry,” Capuano said.

“Some of us who represent these colleges have some concern,” said Republican Representative Mark Walker of North Carolina. “Some of these schools are really struggling. You can’t just say, ‘Look at Harvard, they have all the money in the world.’ ”

But for conservative hard-liners, there will be no tears shed about increasing taxes on institutions that many believe socialize students to leftist values and are silos for the elite. Breitbart News, Fox News, and other conservative media outlets have often referred to Harvard as a “hedge fund with a university attached,” and have pressed lawmakers to tax the endowments.

The “taxpayer gravy train” to elite colleges “needs to end,” said Adam Andrzejewski, an open government activist who led a segment on Fox News this year.

In response, school administrators are telling supporters and lawmakers that the institutions use endowment funds to kickstart local economies and help low-income students with opportunities for economic advancement.

The president of Wellesley College, which would be taxed under the proposal, recently e-mailed all alumnae to denounce the provision. In the e-mail, president Paula A. Johnson said the tax would have a “damaging toll on Wellesley’s ability to sustain the financial aid policy that enables the College to enroll a socioeconomically diverse student body.”

Wellesley’s current total endowment, according to the school, is about $1.8 billion.

Smith College president Kathleen McCartney called the tax “deeply concerning.” The Northampton school has an endowment of roughly $1.75 billion.

“The bill would adversely affect colleges like Smith, whose missions are significantly supported by endowment income and whose students come from families spanning the income spectrum,” McCartney said in a statement. “Smith awards $65M annually in financial aid, much of it funded by the endowment, and there is no question this bill would negatively impact our access mission.”

Senate Republicans have included the endowment tax in their early blueprint of the tax overhaul bill, according to GOP leaders. It remains on the negotiating table, and the Senate Finance Committee has yet to release a text of its bill.

Senator Chuck Grassley, the former chair of the Senate Finance Committee and a senior member of the Republican caucus, has had endowment taxes in his sights for years. Although his office declined to comment on the current proposals, Grassley said in 2011 that colleges were “hoarding assets at taxpayer expense.”

Another complication: Perceptions of colleges and universities have become increasingly partisan in recent years.

A July poll by Pew Research Center found 58 percent of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents now feel that colleges and universities have had “a negative effect on the way things are going in the country.” This number is up 10 percentage points in the last year, and is now on par with other polarizing institutions such as labor unions, churches, and the national news media.


School Worker Was Told She Could Be Fired If She Offered to Pray for Someone Again

It was a small sentence—”I will pray for you”— but it meant big trouble for Cony High School technician Toni Richardson. When Richardson offered that comfort to another Christian on staff in private, she was hauled before school officials and warned not to utter a word about her faith again.

District officials kicked off the controversy last year by telling Richardson that she could “face discipline or dismissal in the future” if she expressed her faith so openly again. “I was shocked that my employer punished me for privately telling a co-worker I would pray for them,” she told reporters at the time.

First Liberty Institute’s Jeremy Dys, who filed a complaint on Richardson’s behalf, explained that it had been a hard 12 months for Richardson since then. “This entire year Toni has had to self-censor herself, making sure she’s not using religious language. … She’s even had to refrain from wearing jewelry that has a cross on it, because if someone were to overhear this private conversation or see that religious imagery round her neck, then she could face discipline or even be terminated.”

Fortunately, after a yearlong clash over religious freedom, school officials have apparently had second thoughts about their attacks. Late last week, our friends at First Liberty proclaimed victory, announcing that the district had officially walked back its threat to Richardson and issued a new memorandum giving her and others the right to make faith-based statements—without fear of school discipline.

Augusta administrators said they recognized “the rights of employees to hold and express religious beliefs and it never was our intent to unlawfully restrict those rights.”

It’s a sad commentary on America, Family Research Council’s Travis Weber pointed out, that trying to encourage someone by telling them you’re “praying for them” would even draw a complaint. But it’s also an encouraging example for Christians about what we can accomplish when we stand up with courage and conviction.

Richardson didn’t back down when the forces of political correctness came knocking. She knew her rights and demanded they be respected. We applaud First Liberty Institute and Richardson for their persistence. Let this be a warning to other school districts that try to intimidate teachers and other staff members of faith. Christians will fight back, and despite the claims of the left to the contrary, the Constitution is on their side.

To hear the story from Richardson, check out this interview we did on “Washington Watch.”


Australia:Treasurer Scott Morrison leads in fight to preserve parent rights against homosexual lobby

Treasurer Scott Morrison is leading behind-the-scenes negotiations with supporters of the Dean Smith same-sex marriage bill, as conservative MPs demand the preservation of parental rights but concede on protections for businesses that refuse commercial dealings with gay wedding ceremonies.

Mr Morrison has emerged as the most vocal cabinet voice on stronger freedom of speech and religion protection amendments to the proposed bill amid accusations that members of Malcolm Turnbull’s executive had misled MPs over their promise to guarantee robust protections.

Leading conservative ministers Peter Dutton and Mathias Cormann have come under pressure from colleagues over claims they “walked away” from earlier commitments.

The Australian understands the Treasurer has already approached colleagues of Senator Smith seeking a “goodwill” agreement to rescue amendments from the rival bill put forward by Victoria’s senator James Paterson, and which were of most concern to conservatives. Chief among them will be the “safe schools” clause preserving the rights of parents to remove children from classes that do not accord with their values, anti-detriment provisions to forbid unfair treatment in the workplace of people who hold traditional views of marriage, and broader religious freedom protections including for charities.

“The issue of same-sex marriage is settled … the issue now is religious freedom, freedom of speech and parental rights,” Mr Morrison told The Australian. “That’s what we need to debate now in good faith and come to a landing on.”

The move for detente between warring tribes within the Coalition came as former prime minister John Howard warned conservative colleagues to not “get hung up” on whether cake makers and florists should be allowed to conscientiously object to supplying their services to gay weddings.

“Clearly the decision of the public should be respected by the parliament,” Mr Howard said, “but I think it is also very important (to address) quite legitimate concerns that were raised by many people, including me and my friend and former deputy prime minister John Anderson, about the protection of parental rights, religious freedoms and freedom of speech.

“These are not small matters. It is a pity that the government, as I asked, had not spelled out before the vote how these matters were going to be covered in any ­enabling legislation.

“I don’t regard the Dean Smith bill as being sufficient. I think the two things that really do matter are freedom of religion and speech and parental rights.”

Victorian frontbench MP ­Michael Sukkar said the Yes campaign promised Australians that there would not be any consequences for parents’ rights, freedom of speech and freedom of conscience and religion. “Now we must hold them to those commitments,” Mr Sukkar said.

Liberal National Party senator Barry O’Sullivan accused a “cohort” of senior cabinet ministers of misleading the partyroom and called on the Prime Minister to ­intervene. “There is deep discontent amongst a lot of Coalition senators at the way that this has been managed, the introduction of this bill,” Senator O’Sullivan said.

“It’s almost as if some cohort within the executive — there’s ­evidence that we’ve been misled, there’s evidence that decisions have been taken where they haven’t consulted with the broader caucus of the government members.

“And there is deep anger about that ... This is about procedure ... Today we will cede the government to the opposition and the Greens — that’s the effect of this motion this afternoon.

“My call is for the Prime Minister to just intervene in this and slow the process down ... so all voices can be heard and we can develop a piece of legislation that’s comprehensive and reflects not just the will of the people to have same-gender marriage, but the five million Australians who have resisted this and want to see that we provide the appropriate protections in future so we don’t fill the courts and human rights commission with cases.”

Mr Anderson said parliamentarians needed to remember that almost five million Australians had voted No.

“They are worthy of respect and our protections for freedom of conscience and freedom of speech and the right to raise our children according to our values are very weak by international standards,” the former deputy prime minister said. “I do have to say to my ­Coalition colleagues, ‘Walk away from that, I would suggest, at your peril’."


1 comment:

Ajay Pandey said...

Female education is a catch-all term
of a complex set of issues and debates
surrounding education (primary education,
secondary education, tertiary education,
and health education in particular) for
girls and women.
girls education