A plan to fund scholarships for St. Louis and Kansas City schoolchildren who want to escape public education for private schooling has failed, even with high powered pressure from Republican leaders. Up to $40 million in tax credits would have been given to those donating scholarship money. The scholarships would have been offered to schoolchildren in the state’s two inner cities.
The bill, HB 808 , was one of the key components in Republican plans to address the failing St. Louis School District. Governor Blunt came to the House chamber, lobbied members and watched in disappointed as the bill failed on a 62-to-96 vote. Blunt says that as one who thinks the status quo in St. Louis isn’t good enough, he’s obviously disappointed.
Also disappointed was sponsor Carl Bearden (R-St. Charles), the House Speaker Pro Tem, who called for the vote knowing he was well short of the 82 votes needed for passage. Bearden says many rural legislators were pressured by school administrators in their district who opposed the bill. Bearden says he had thought he had changed some minds, but knew when the vote was cast that nothing had changed.
Lt. Governor Peter Kinder, a big supporter of the measure, also lobbied on the side galleries of the House chamber to no avail. Kinder says the vote condemns some inner-city children to bleak futures. Kinder curtly states that Missouri will go forward and build more prisons, a point that echoes one made during House floor debate by Rep. T. D. El-Amin (D-St. Louis) who stated that the vote came down to whether the House wanted to educate or incarcerate inner city schoolchildren.