Kansas City Star. May 17, 2021.

Editorial: Missouri voucher bill will hurt public education. Does that help low-income kids?

Just when Kansas City Public Schools seemed ready to reclaim full state accreditation, Missouri lawmakers made reaching that goal harder by passing a bill that will divert students and dollars away from the system.

The bill passed earlier this month will allow a tax credit program to pay for kids in public schools to go to private schools instead. It’s a measure that public school districts here and across the country have been trying to stave off for years.

This latest legislative move in Missouri has been sold as one that will benefit low-income families, but public school leaders fear it’s a step toward the dismantling of public school districts and the privatization of public education.

If that happens, where does that leave the most at-risk students, who are less likely to be welcome in private and some charter schools? Taking money away from public schools makes it harder for them to provide instruction to the students left in their classrooms. Don’t they deserve a good education, too?

The Missouri measure, approved 20-13 by the GOP-led Senate, would create a limited voucher system if signed by Republican Gov. Mike Parson.

Under the bill, private donors would give money to nonprofits that in turn would dole out the scholarships, which is what lawmakers who support the legislation are now calling vouchers.

The money could be used to help parents pay private school tuition, transportation to school and other education-related expenses. And donors would get state tax credits equal to the amount they give.

This bill attempts to sidestep the opposition to school voucher programs that directly give public money to private schools.

But public districts are the losers here. The donors will get their money back in some form, while the school district will lose approximately $10,000 a year in state funding for every child that walks out the door.


Democratic lawmakers have not supported the measure.

Missouri Senate Democratic Leader John Rizzo of Independence says the bill “will drain $75 million away from public schools each year.”

He called the vouchers a “kickback” to families for sending their children to private schools or homeschooling them.

“This bill begins a significant degradation of public education in Missouri,” said Kelly Wachel, spokeswoman for Kansas City Public Schools.

Yaw Oben, superintendent in the Hickman Mills School District, puts it this way: “This is a direct attack on public education. It is a direct attack on our student enrollment and the funding that we receive from the state. And that reduces our ability to provide some of our special programs."

Both Hickman Mills and Kansas City Public Schools have struggled with low student performance and remained only provisionally accredited. Earlier this year, a national urban school group suggested state officials should award KCPS full accreditation because it’s made great progress and is doing better than most urban districts. Losing state dollars would be a big setback.

The Missouri legislation would be limited to students with disabilities on individual education plans and children from low-income families.

The problem with that is that many private schools don’t even have programs for children with disabilities or behavior issues. If the scholarship pays a portion of the private school tuition, would a low-income family really be able to come up with the remaining fees? And if hundreds of children were to get scholarships, are there even enough seats in private classrooms to accommodate such an influx?

Of course parents want the best education for their children. But public money should pay for public education.


St. Louis Post-Dispatch. May 14, 2021.

Editorial: The Missouri Legislature adjourns. Good riddance.

The regular legislative session is over, and the people of Missouri are, for the time being, safe from additional acts of ideological extremism by the Republican-led General Assembly. Not that lawmakers didn’t manage some lasting damage while encamped in Jefferson City since January.

Most of the harm lawmakers have done this year was about what they refused to do: Medicaid won’t yet be expanded, which will continue to cost the health and even lives of vulnerable Missourians until a court inevitably orders the state to do what the voters have already mandated. Gun violence will continue ripping through St. Louis’ streets, with police officers’ hands tied by a gun-addled Legislature that denies the city even the most basic tools to confront it. The missing state leadership that made the pandemic worse here than it had to be is still missing, which will likely make recovery slower than it has to be.

The few bright spots in the legislative session that ended Friday include an accomplishment that should have happened many years ago — an increase in Missouri’s gas tax, currently among the lowest in America and unchanged for decades — to finally address the state’s distressed infrastructure. Better late than never. Ditto with last week’s passage, finally, of a statewide prescription drug database to battle opioid abuse, something every state but Missouri had managed long ago.

The long delays in approving the gas tax and drug database, and the continued failure to tackle other pressing issues that shadow Missouri, all stem from the same dysfunction: The Legislature’s Republican majority is so far right on taxes and social issues, and so radically antigovernmental in general, that just about any attempt at all toward responsible governance runs into a wall of crazy. That point was driven home Thursday with final passage of a measure declaring Missouri outside the reach of federal gun laws. The bill doesn’t ultimately matter because, even if Gov. Mike Parson signs it, the courts will undoubtedly find it unconstitutional. Yet it stands as a glaring reminder of just how unhinged the legislative majority is.

The greatest betrayal lawmakers inflicted upon their constituents this session is a variation on the one Republicans here have been inflicting for the past decade: their refusal to expand Medicaid as envisioned under the Affordable Care Act. By broadening the eligibility standards for that joint federal-state health care program for the poor, Missouri could bring lifesaving care to some 275,000 of the state’s citizens who are currently ineligible for that help but still too poor to afford their own insurance — with the federal government picking up most of the tab. But Missouri, like other red states, has long refused that lifeline, opting instead to let its own citizens suffer for the sake of undermining a Democratic policy initiative.

Missouri voters’ patience finally reached its limit last year. They passed a referendum ordering the state to expand Medicaid. But, incredibly, the Legislature this session refused to allocate the state’s portion of the funding for it, effectively turning down the far greater federal portion and thumbing a nose at the voters by unlawfully ignoring the referendum. Parson — a Republican who, like his party, has long opposed expanding Medicaid — nonetheless began setting up the expansion process in what appeared to be a principled bow to the voters and a challenge to legislative Republicans, earning him editorial kudos from us on Wednesday. Boy, were we wrong.

Parson’s principled stand lasted all of one day. On Thursday, Parson fell back in line with the petulant cruelty of his party and announced he was scuttling the Medicaid expansion plans because the funding wasn’t approved. Kudos revoked. The suffering people of Parson’s state will see him in court.

It’s not the first time Parson seems to have been briefly gripped by an impulse to do the right thing, only to be reminded by his party that he’s not allowed to. In 2019, he met several times with St. Louis leaders regarding gun violence and appeared open to giving the city some flexibility to impose reasonable restrictions here. City leaders have long asked the state to grant an exception to the obtuse state law that allows concealed weapons virtually anywhere in public with no permit required and no way for police to ascertain if the carriers are felons barred from possessing firearms. Yet this legislative session, as usual, the self-described law-and-order crowd in the General Assembly sided with the criminals and did exactly nothing to help law enforcers stop the bloodshed.

Then there’s the pandemic, which has killed close to 9,000 Missourians yet never seemed to get the kind of legislative attention lavished on petty culture-war battles like regulating transgender participation in sports. When the Legislature has addressed the pandemic, the action has generally been in unhelpful ways — like the passage last week of a measure allowing election officials to bigfoot the decisions of public health experts regarding emergency pandemic restrictions.

On voting issues, Republicans here, as around the country, have used former President Donald Trump’s false election-fraud claims to push measures making absentee voting more difficult and putting up other roadblocks designed to hamper voting. Missouri House Republicans, upset that their Senate counterparts didn’t complete those measures this session, are asking Parson to call a special session this summer to revisit the issue. Here’s hoping that doesn’t happen. With this crowd, Missourians are safer when Jefferson City is empty.


Jefferson City News Tribune. May 16, 2021.

Editorial: Parson should sign bill limiting police chokeholds

We commend the Missouri Legislature for passing a bill limiting the use of police chokeholds, and we urge Gov. Mike Parson to sign it.

The Associated Press reported the Republican-led House voted 140-4 Thursday to send the bill to Republican Gov. Mike Parson, a former sheriff. The measure includes numerous other police- and criminal-law-related rules, which likely helped it gain widespread support.

This bill was prompted by the death of a Black man, Minnesota’s George Floyd. A white officer last year pressed his knee on the neck of Floyd, who was handcuffed, until Floyd stopped breathing. The officer recently was convicted of causing his death and could be sentenced to up to 40 years in prison.

Floyd was suspected of passing a counterfeit $20 bill in Minneapolis. Court documents later said Floyd had fentanyl in his system when he died.

We believe a few rogue cops, unfortunately, have smeared the reputation of law enforcement officers throughout our country. The vast percentage of law enforcement officers are professional, respectful and try to use the least amount of force necessary when dealing with combative subjects.

Under the Missouri bill, police could only use chokeholds in self-defense if they or someone else are in serious danger, the AP reported.

Hopefully, this measure, along with reform measures in other states, will help to prevent instances such as Floyd’s death in the future and help to restore the reputation of law enforcement.

We’ve said before that there are times when police may need to use a chokehold to save the life of the officer. There are times they could save the life of a suspect who otherwise might be shot and killed. But those times are few and far between.

We believe the bill is a good reform measure, and we hope Parson wastes no time signing it.