Public Schools Fight for Funds
The Missouri School Board Association said a new tax incentive bill will do just that. A tuition tax subsidy program would give donors a tax break if they give to a certain scholarship which could be used by students in public or private schools.
"It's a very complicated scheme that they've come up with," said MSBA's Brent Ghan. "It definitely is an indirect subsidy of public money to private schools with public money, which is something that is expressly prohibited by the Missouri constitution."
Another bill, "the 66% and two-thirds solution," would require districts to spend at least that much of their budgets in their classrooms.
"Many factors that contribute to a quality education, the many factors that contribute to a child being educated in a safe environment, weren't taken into account at all," said Enderle. "In my time in the superintendent's office, which is nine years now, there probably has been no greater affront to local control."
The MSBA's Ghan added, "We think that school boards are in the best position to make budget decisions for their local communities, not some arbitrary percentage developed by the state."
However, some state lawmakers in Jefferson City favor the proposals.
"'Sixty-six and two-thirds' is a great program that will help to ensure that our kids are actually getting a quality education," said Rep. Carl Bearden, R-St. Charles.
Bearden also backed the tax subsidy program in the last legislative session. He said the bill won't give private schools public money, because it's simply a tax credit, which he said is well worth the effort.
"The tax credit scholarship will provide better citizenry, better-educated citizenry, and will help the state out as a whole," Bearden said. "Right now, those school districts are failing those kids miserably."
The MSBA admitted those districts are struggling, but also said there are many good things about Missouri public schools. That's why the organization is holding fall meetings to encourage school boards and administrators to lobby their legislators.
"When their local school board members speak to them, it is very persuasive," Ghan explained.
"Everyday I've come into this district as a teacher or principal or superintendent has been with a lot of pride," Enderle added.