Ed Emery, R-Lamar, Steve Hunter, R-Joplin, Marilyn Ruestman, R-Joplin, and Bryan Stevenson, R-Webb City, are listed as co-sponsors of HB 498, which was filed Thursday.
The bill would create a tax credit that would encourage people and corporations to donate to new education scholarship foundations. Under the bill, 65 percent of a donation would be reimbursed, in the form of reduced taxes. The privately run foundations would then award scholarships averaging $5,000 to students who currently attend one of the 13 school districts in Missouri that lack full state accreditation due to low performance.
An article in today's St. Louis Post-Dispatch quotes Rep. Ed Robb, R-Columbia, as saying that he hopes to convince rural legislators, who have opposed previous incarnations of this bill of the bill's value. Apparently, he did not have to do much to persuade Mrs. Ruestman, Emery, Hunter, and Stevenson.
The Post-Dispatch article dwells on the money that pro-public school forces have used to oppose this kind of legislation, which is seen by public school supporters as a transparent effort to open the door for educational vouchers.
What the article fails to mention is the amount of money being poured into this state by the out-of-state pro voucher movement. A prime example is the bill's sponsor. According to Missouri Ethics Commission documents, leading voucher supporter All Children Matter paid $9,679.32 to support Ed Robb's candidacy in 2006...and paid for $24,710.59 worth of negative advertising against Robb's Democratic opponent, former Columbia Public Schools Superintendent Jim Ritter.
One of the co-sponsors of HB 498 is Rep. Dwight Scharnhorst, R-Valley Park. All Children Matter spent $3,3338.24 to support Scharnhorst, and paid $6,355.42 to attack his opponent.
All Children Matter spent $31,640 supporting co-sponsor Rodney Hubbard, D-St. Louis. The co-sponsor list also includes Rep. Jane Cunningham, R-Chesterfield, who campaigned for her position as chairman of the House Elementary and Secondary Education Committee by writing a letter to Speaker Rod Jetton, R-Marble Hill, bragging about how much funding she brought to House Republicans from All Children Matter. Jetton, too, was a recipient of a maximum $325 contribution from the organization, as were most of the bill's co-sponsors.
Among the local co-sponsors, Mrs. Ruestman, Emery, and Hunter all received maximum contributions from All Children Matter. Stevenson did not receive a contribution from the organization.
If there is any doubt as to the true intent of the Robb bill, it should be erased by the title given to it- the Milton Friedman 'Put Parents in Charge' Education Program. Mr. Friedman, who died late last year, is widely known as the father of the voucher movement. He created the concept in the 1950s and has helped push it over the years through the Friedman Foundation.