Driving the Snakes Out of Politics (St. Patrick’s Day-Themed)
Devotees will recall that Dave Roland, the Show-Me Institute’s education policy analyst, testified in Jefferson City several weeks ago regarding the constitutionality of these bills. Because he’s currently on vacation, however, I’ll take it upon myself to address some of the more pernicious segments of today’s letter (and I won’t even comment on the author’s politically loaded rhetoric).
Investigating a similar model program in Florida, the Palm Beach Post reported that "77 percent of participating schools have no special programs for disabled children." […]
In St. Louis County, the Special School District provides more than 1,300 private school students with special education services not available from their private schools, and contracts with qualified private agencies for the small number of students whose needs are not met by public school programs.
Great! That’s the whole point of choice. If parents are happy with their current arrangement, there’s no harm done. Providing parents with additional educational options can only improve their situation. Even if only 1 percent of families chose to take advantage of a special needs tax scholarship, the other 99 percent who chose to remain in the current status quo would be no worse off. State funding would be exactly the same and their learning environment would be identical to what it was before. And the 1 percent who did chosoe to leave their current schools would also be better-served.
State revenue lost through tuition tax credits would be better invested in reducing the local property tax burden, by supporting public education programs and expanding the available public assistance for children with special needs.
This statement is completely irrelevant, since the Special Needs Tax Credit is revenue-neutral, meaning that the decrease in tax revenue is directly offset by the decrease in per-student state contributions to the public school. If the parents of an autistic child were to decide that their child was better-suited to an alternative school and withdrew from their district, the decrease in state spending would be matched by an equivalent tax credit scholarship. Arguing about better uses for special needs funding is simply a non-sequiter for the bills under consideration.
Personally, I agree with state Rep. Rodney Hubbard’s (D-St. Louis) comments on the merits of the special needs tax credit bill: “Either you’re for autistic kids, or you’re against autistic kids.”
Which side is today’s letter-writer on?