When applications opened Wednesday for Missouri’s new tax-credit scholarships for kindergarten through high school, some prominent names were left off the list of participating schools.
Elite prep schools John Burroughs in Ladue and Pembroke Hill in Kansas City have not partnered with any of the state’s certified Educational Assistance Organizations, religious groups chosen to collect and distribute the funds.
“The scholarships I thought were designed to help parents who wanted private school options to be able to afford it,” said Krystal Barnett, executive director of school choice advocacy group Bridge 2 Hope St. Louis. “What’s unclear is if all private schools are included.”
Under state law signed last year by Gov. Mike Parson, the MOScholars program allows residents and businesses to receive a credit of up to 50% of state tax liability for donations to the program. The groups then grant the annual scholarships of up to $6,375, prioritizing those students with special needs or from low-income families. The funds go into an app that can only be used for tuition and other qualifying expenses.
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Each religious group “will, at its discretion, establish relationships with eligible schools” before students can apply.
One of the six groups chosen to run 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 sex agenda.”
Herzog will partner with any eligible school and is adding to its list “daily,” said Elizabeth Roberts, communications director.
About half of the member schools in Independent Schools of St. Louis have partnered with one of the scholarship management groups, including nearly all Catholic and Lutheran schools, said executive director Jamie Driver.
“Those that haven’t, haven’t gotten around to it yet 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 they are open to participating but the school is not likely to be a common choice based on the income restrictions and rule that students must have attended a public school in the last year. Tuition at the school for 2022-2023 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 of 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 educational costs including tutoring or technology, the state’s largest homeschooling group is urging families not to participate.
Leaders of Families for Home Education based in Maryville oppose the program’s required background checks on every member of the household and standardized testing of students because it sets a “dangerous precedent” for state monitoring of home schools.
The scholarships are intended to be distributed for the upcoming school year, with donations accepted starting July 1. In its first year, the program could divert up to $25 million in tax collections to private schools and educational companies.
“This is an exciting day for qualifying Missouri students who need educational options,” said state treasurer Scott Fitzpatrick in a statement Wednesday. “Our EAO partners, my staff, and I have been working hard to get this program up and ready to begin accepting applications. Now, the program needs donors to help make these scholarships possible.”
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