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Tax Cut for Private School Tuition

February 22, 1998
By: Marjani Coffey
MDN Columbia Bureau

Parents whose children attend private schools do not only pay tuition for their children...but fund the public education of a child they don't even know.

Carlene Bax has sent all three of her children to Helias High School, a Catholic school in Jefferson City.

Bax says, "Since we pay taxes for public schoools, we should have the option of deducting some of our tution costs."

State Senator Harry Wiggins, a Democrat from Kansas City, is sponsoring a bill to ease those costs.

The bill would allow parents to deduct up to 25-hundred-dollars for each dependent whether they attend a public, private or parochial secondary school in Missouri.

The deduction--for the costs of tuition, attendance fees, school supplies and transportation--would provide a return of about 150-dollars per year.

The bill is on hold until the Senator Wiggins takes further action.

The Missouri Catholic Conference supports the bill.

Assistant Director Mike Hoey (Hoy) says, "There are no victims of this bill. It is beneficial to all school parents because it allows them to more easily pay for education."

The Education Commission of the States, says other states have proposed bills similar to this one. The E-C-S is a non-partisan, not-for-profit organization that helps states improve the quality of education.

Spokesperson Kathy Christie says, "Many bills like this don't pass because of the fierce debate against them."

One of those fierce debators is the Missouri National Education Association. Assistant Director E.C. Walker says the bill won't help parents of public school children because they have no costs outside of school supplies.

Walker says, "There is no way anyone spends 25-hundred dollars on school supplies."

He says government should focus on providing public education that is equal to private schools.

Walker says, "If legislators think public schools aren't providing the education that they should, then it's their responsibility to improve public schools."

Walker also says allowing a deduction for private education violates separation of church and state.

However Bax says, "Why is this [deduction] a violation? There are already government-funded programs in Catholic schools for reduced lunches and for children with learning disabilities."

Bax says it's time the state does something to benefit parents whose children don't go to public school.

"We help the state by easing overcrowding [in public schools]. Therefore, we should get some money back."

This year, Missouri is required by law to refund taxpayers about 700-million dollars in excess revenues.

The deduction would cost the state about seven-point-eight million dollars.


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