When applications opened Wednesday for the new Missouri Kindergarten through High School Tax Credit Scholarships, some prominent names were omitted from the list of participating schools.
The elite John Burroughs Preparatory Schools in Ladue and Pembroke Hill in Kansas City have not partnered with any of the state’s certified education aid organizations, faith groups chosen to raise and distribute the funds.
“I thought the scholarships were designed to help parents who wanted private school options be able to afford them,” said Krystal Barnett, executive director of school choice advocacy group Bridge 2 Hope St. Louis. “What’s not clear is whether all private schools are included.”
Under state law signed last year by Governor Mike Parson, the MOScholars program allows residents and businesses to receive a credit of up to 50% of state tax for donations to the program. The groups then award annual scholarships of up to $6,375, prioritizing students with special needs or from low-income families. Funds are paid into an application that can only be used for tuition and other eligible expenses.
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Each religious group will “in its discretion establish relationships with eligible schools” before students can apply.
One of the six groups chosen to administer the scholarship program includes the Herzog Foundation, which has a mission “to catalyze and accelerate the development of quality, Christ-centered K-12 education.” Group leaders have criticized public and private schools, including Pembroke Hill, for indoctrinating children with a ‘radical race and gender agenda’.
Herzog will partner with any eligible school and add to its list “daily,” said communications director Elizabeth Roberts.
About half of St. Louis Independent Schools member schools have partnered with one of the scholarship management groups, including nearly all Catholic and Lutheran schools, executive director Jamie Driver said.
“Those who haven’t, haven’t, or may not be interested in participating in the program in this first year,” Driver said. “There are still more questions than answers.”
A spokeswoman for John Burroughs School said it was open to participation, but the school was unlikely to be a common choice due to income restrictions and the rule that students must have attended a public school in the past year. Tuition at the school for 2022-23 is $32,800.
Schools not on the list of participants also include Miriam and Churchill in St. Louis County for students with learning disabilities. Any student with an Individualized Educational Program (IEP) for special needs is eligible for one of the scholarships, regardless of family income. Participating families must release their home school district from any obligations under federal disability protections.
Miriam intends to participate but has yet to register, according to a spokeswoman.
While home-schooled students can use the scholarships for education costs, including tutoring or technology, the state’s largest home-schooling group is urging families not to participate.
Maryville-based Families for Home Education leaders oppose program-required background checks for every household member and standardized student testing because it sets a ‘dangerous precedent’ for state surveillance of schools home.
The scholarships are intended to be distributed for the upcoming school year, with donations being accepted from 1 July. In its first year, the program could divert up to $25 million in tax revenue to private schools and educational enterprises.
“This is an exciting day for qualified Missouri students who need educational options,” State Treasurer Scott Fitzpatrick said in a statement Wednesday. “Our EAO partners, my staff and I have worked hard to set up this program and be ready to start accepting applications. Now the program needs donors to help make these scholarships possible.