Wrong Then, Wrong Now—the Post-Dispatch and School Choice
It will come as no surprise to the readers of the Show-Me Institute blog that the St. Louis Post-Dispatch gets it wrong every now and again. As I was digging through some historical archives, I found a terrific example of this that still has much relevance today.
In the April 23, 1960, editorial “Twin Principles,” the paper declared, “There cannot be any real question that payment of tax funds directly or indirectly to support private church schools would violate the principle of separation between church and state.”
Responding via a letter to the editor five days later, James Bick, the president of Citizens for Educational Freedom, noted the error in this claim. He wrote:
When tax-provided educational benefits are given to all children for the non-religious elements of their education there is no violation of the separation of Church and state principle. Aid is given to the parent and child. The parent has the freedom to expend his benefits at the school of his choice. This is the principle under which tuition grants were made under the “G.I. Bill.” The United States Supreme Court used the same principle in deciding the Everson vs. Board of Education Case (1947) concerning school bus transportation.
It took more than 40 years, but the U.S. Supreme Court used exactly the logic laid out by Bick when deciding the Ohio voucher case of Zelman v. Simmons-Harris. There is no violation of the separation of church and state when parents are provided the opportunity to choose their children’s school, even if it is a religious school.
In a recent Post-Dispatch article, you’ll find another mistake. The reporters writing the article label the MoScholars program a “voucher.” Undoubtedly, they know this is the language used by those who stand against school choice. A voucher implies that the state is giving direct aid, in the form of a voucher, to pay for private school. This is not the way the MoScholars program works. It is supported by donations, and those making the donations are then eligible for a state tax credit. These donations provide education savings accounts to parents who may choose to use them at private schools—but parents can also use the money for a variety of other purposes, such as tutoring, online classes, or special education services, to name a few.
To find out more about the MoScholars program and how you can make a tax credit donation or apply for a scholarship, visit the Missouri State Treasurer’s website.