Choice Legislation Passes the House

Choice Legislation Passes the House
December 1, 1997



Under the terms of a bill approved 230-198 by the U.S. House of Representatives on October 23, families would have the opportunity to put after-tax dollars into special education savings accounts for their children. Interest earned on the accounts would be tax-free and could be used to pay for any K-12 education expenses, including private school tuition, textbooks, computers, and tutors.

The “A+ Accounts” bill, sponsored by Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Georgia) and Senator Paul Coverdell (R-Georgia), is virtually identical to an amendment that was pulled from the bipartisan budget agreement in July after President Bill Clinton threatened to veto the entire budget. The bill’s prospects in the Senate improved when, in spite of strong teacher union opposition, Democratic Senator Robert G. Torricelli of New Jersey announced his support for the bill.

The U.S. House of Representatives is considering several other items of school choice legislation. As well as the pilot scholarship program embodied in the District of Columbia appropriations bill, which is scheduled for a November vote, the House is also considering a new bill, “H.E.L.P. Scholarships,” sponsored by Representatives James M. Talent (R-Missouri), Floyd H. Flake (D-New York), J.C. Watts Jr. (R-Oklahoma), and Frank Riggs (R-California).

Under the Helping Empower Low-Income Parents bill, states could fund opportunity scholarships for low-income children in their states from the more than $300 million that they receive under Federal Title VI as block grants for Innovation in Education. Scholarships would be redeemable at private, public, or religious schools and in many cases would be sufficient to cover the entire cost of tuition at non-public schools.

Another choice measure being considered by the House is Republican legislation introduced earlier this year under the American Community Renewal Act, which provided K-12 scholarships for poor children to attend private or religious schools.



Missouri Judge Defies U.S. Supreme Court

In what the U.S. Justice Department called “a clear abuse of judicial power,” a Missouri federal district court judge has refused to lift a ban that he imposed 12 years ago on providing Title I remedial services to children in religious schools.

Judge Joseph E. Stevens Jr. imposed the ban in 1985, shortly after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled unconstitutional the provision of Title I services in religious schools. But the Court reversed itself in June of this year. When the Justice Department asked Judge Stevens to comply with the most recent Court ruling, he refused, leaving some 3,600 Missouri students in religious schools without services for which they were eligible.

To comply with the Court’s 1985 ruling, many public school districts provided Title I services in rented vans off the premises of religious schools. After the Supreme Court’s June ruling, allowing such services to be provided inside the schools, the U.S. Education Department instructed Blue Hills Corp., the provider of Missouri’s Title I services, not to rent vans this year. Judge Stevens’ refusal to lift his ban created an impasse for the service provider: They have been barred from working in the religious schools but now have no vans to work offsite.

The U.S. Justice Department has filed an appeals court motion to stay Stevens’ injunction. The stay will allow school districts to begin providing Title I services in religious schools until the appeals court makes a ruling on the case.



Missouri Tax Cases Set for Court

Two taxpayers who protested their school taxes for 1996 will soon have their day in court.

Missouri statutes allow citizens to protest their personal property and real estate taxes and demand a refund of taxes that they consider unfair, confiscatory, and discriminatory. The county tax Collector is required to hold the protested taxes in escrow for 90 days, during which time a lawsuit must be filed to support the protest. Once the suit is filed, the protested funds are kept in the escrow fund until legal action is ended.

Citizens for Educational Freedom in Missouri has been coordinating efforts to correct the unjust taxation laws in Missouri that mandate education taxes support only a public school monopoly. This denies parents their right to receive a fair share of their taxes when they choose a non-public school for their children.



CEF and EFF Name New Leadership

A new Board of Trustees was elected at the annual general meeting of Citizens for Educational Freedom in St. Louis on October 4. The following new board members will serve for one-year terms:

Chairman

James J. Condit, Cincinnati, Ohio

President

Mae Duggan, St. Louis, Missouri

Vice-President

Burnett Bauer, South Bend, Indiana

Treasurer

Joseph Schmitz, St. Louis, Missouri

Secretary
Sr. Renee Oliver, Cleveland, Ohio

At the October 3 annual general meeting of the Educational Freedom Foundationin St. Louis, the following officers and board members were elected for one-year terms:

Chairman

Herman Kriegshauser, Chesterfield, Missouri

President

Martin L. Duggan, St. Louis, Missouri

Vice-President

Daniel D. McGarry Ph.D., Los Angeles, California

Treasurer

Paul Mecklenborg, Cincinnati, Ohio

Secretary

Mae Duggan, St. Louis, Missouri

Board Members

Burnett Bauer, South Bend, Indiana

James J. Condit, Cincinnati, Ohio

Mark Mittelman, St. Louis, Missouri