Spotlighting Special Needs
Yesterday, committees in both the House and Senate of Missouri’s General Assembly heard testimony on several bills designed to help the families of more than 50,000 children suffering from a range of developmental disorders. Three bills have been introduced as possible solutions to the problem.
SB 770, sponsored by Senator Rupp, would create a publicly funded scholarship program, much like a traditional voucher program, that would allow the parents of students diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder to redirect the public education dollars already allocated for their child toward the public or private school of their choice. SB 993, sponsored by Senator Crowell, and HB 1886, sponsored by Representative Scharnhorst, would allow taxpayers to claim a partial credit for charitable contributions made to non-profit scholarship organizations that would help parents of special needs children afford the schools best prepared to assist their kids.
The hearings yesterday included moving testimony from parents who have faced (and, in some cases, overcome) enormous obstacles in trying to help their children, as well as testimony from a number of parents, educators, and administrators opposed to changing the status quo. Unfortunately, this morning’s news reports missed the opportunity to note that some of the points raised by those opposing the bills were clearly and thoroughly debunked. Articles in the Southeast Missourian and the Post-Dispatch try to present a relatively balanced picture of the issues, as presented at the Senate committee’s hearing. Both of these articles, and the one posted at Missourinet, point out concerns raised by some educators that the programs would take money away from public schools but (as conversations at the House committee hearing made absolutely plain) it would be impossible for the tax credit bills, as written, to divert any money away from the state’s educational funding formula. If the special needs tax credit program is adopted, public schools will receive exactly the same level of funding as they would without the program.
I was on hand to present testimony at both hearings, a written version of which we have posted on the Show-Me Institute’s main website. I hope that anyone interested in learning more about these proposals will glance it over.