This week a handful of Missouri senators used filibuster techniques to block legislations that could positively impact the lives of thousands of Missouri families currently trapped in schools that do not meet their children’s needs.
Senator Andrew Koenig’s SB 612 would establish the Missouri Empowerment Scholarship and provided millions of dollars of charitable funding to help children with special needs, children in foster care, and children of military families with funding to access personal tutors, therapy services, private schools, books, and a wide variety of other education support services.
The effort to block this innovative legislation was led by St. Louis County Democratic Senator Jill Schupp despite an outpouring of requests from her constituents to let the bill receive a vote on the floor of the state senate.
In response to one of her constituent’s requests, Sen. Schupp revealed the misinformed reasoning that led to her blockage of a bill that could help so many Missouri families.
Sadly, Sen. Schupp gets a lot of facts about this issue wrong:
Falsehood 1: “Education Savings Accounts (ESA’s) are taxpayer funded, privately managed accounts”
Truth: The Missouri Empowerment Scholarship would be funded through private donations from individuals wanting to support Missouri families. Those donors would, in return, receive a tax credit, but no money would be used from the state coffers to pay for the program. Scholarships would be disbursed form non-profit organizations that be overseen by the State Treasurers Office.
Falsehood 2: “Proponents of using public tax dollars for private school choice (vouchers, tax credits and education savings grants) make a wide array of claims about their benefits. They claim that competition will spur public school improvement, vouchers will reduce the cost of education, students who get vouchers will show dramatic achievement gains, and vouchers are a success in most industrialized nations. None of this has happened!”
Truth: A wide berth of empirical research has shown that, in fact, all of these things have happened in the states that have had the vision to create private school choice programs. In fact, 29 out 31 studies have shown that private school choice improves the performance of nearby public schools and ZERO studies have shown that school choice harms students in public schools. Last year a number of studies showed that while participation in private school choice programs resulted in in an initial drop in performance, students who stayed in the program for multiple years ended up having higher education achievement than their peers in public schools. Additional studies have shown that participation in private school choice programs increases graduation rates, increases the likelihood that students will attend college, and even helps to lower crime. A 2016 study of an ESA program similar to the Missouri Empowerment Scholarship program showed that the program would actually create a combined state and local savings of between $8.3 million and $57.6 million per year.
Falsehood 3: “The use of these public funds for non-public schools is unconstitutional. Some of these schemes, such as tax credits, are designed to skirt the law.”
Truth: The Missouri Empowerment Scholarship uses ZERO public funds for private schools. Education Savings Accounts are not schemes, they are in fact well established methods of helping families access the services they need and have positive track records in the six states currently using them.
What parents are saying in other states:
Falsehood 4: “After years of investing in public education, test scores are up and Missouri’s graduation rate is among the top ten in the nation.”
Truth: State funding for traditional district schools has increased in Missouri for decades, but student achievement on quality assessments like the SAT has remained constantly flat.
Falsehood 5 : “Public education has always been about the development of each child as an individual to the fullest extent of their abilities for the ultimate benefit of society.”
Truth: The current public education system in Missouri educates children based on where they live and how old they are, and approach that leads to a cookie-cutter education system that leave many children with out access to the individualized learning opportunities that will help them excel.
The fact is that private school choice is a proven way to improve education for the students who need the most help. Contact Sen. Shupp today and tell her to spend more time getting her facts straights and less time blocking legislation that could have a real impact on Missouri families.
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