Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Messenger still getting HB 808 WRONG

At Tony Messenger's blog and in his editorial column today at, titled "Tax credit bill is vouchers in a bad disguise," is it just me or is there some desperate mixed messaging going on?

Yesterday, at his blog he wrote that no matter what supporters call HB 808 it translates to vouchers, in 'Walks AND talks like a duck,' and yesterday he wrote that it's all about money and we should question why those, including the Catholic Conference, support it. He questioned their motivations, as though the only reason they would support it might be that they see themselves as beneficiaries on a money train.

Today, in his editorial he announced that whether you call it tax credits or vouchers "We don't care," (and one must assume he is speaking on behalf of the Springfield News-Leader itself, who else would "we" be?).

Yesterday he implied that state lawmakers who support the bill are lying when they claim it isn't a 'voucher' bill only to today, and I'm sure it was unintentional, misinterpret and misrepresent the bill, himself. Today he doesn't care what people call it? A tax credit bill or a voucher bill? Well, he certainly cared yesterday when he was busy implying supporters were lying about it by denying it was a voucher bill.

Then he notes in a blog entry posted today, titled "The slippery slope of vouchers," that he's now concerned for Catholic schools because HB 808 would require some state requirements on private schools and he doesn't want the state interfering with their curriculum. He opposes the bill today, in part, because he feels it abandons the urban public schools he supports which are regulated by the state on the grounds that private schools would be regulated by (gasp!) the state. He then writes he was educated in Catholic schools, received a quality education and is therefore not at all biased against them so, I assume he is genuinely concerned for their well being and freedom from state requirements? Uh huh. Implying one day that they have deep, dark ulterior motives for supporting the bill and then the next day being concerned for their independence because the big bad state will put requirements on them just doesn't jive. Sorry, I don't buy it.

Honesty is either important or not and the fact of the matter is, Springfield citizens expect when they read an editorial written by no less than the Editorial Page Editor of the paper that he will be more careful in his analysis. People take his word for matters such as this, and folks, he knows that.

I didn't plan to continue ad nauseam about Tony Messenger's coverage of Missouri's House Bill 808, it's just sort of turned out that way. Call this pick on Tony Messenger week, or call it pick on tax credit or voucher week, or misrepresentation week. WE (here at JackeHammer) DON'T CARE. We simply find it troubling that the leading newspaper in the City of Springfield is playing fast and loose with the facts. If the people who are to report the news and help educate the community about issues of vital importance pertaining to the education of our state's children doesn't care about the minute details of HB 808 and is so obviously opposed to it and biased against it how, then, can we expect fair coverage of the issue?

Where does Messenger get the figure that approximately $40 million dollars will come out of our state's general tax revenue? If he has given any indication, I missed it.

Can Messenger be more specific about who it is going to hurt? He appears now to be backpeddling on the alleged $40 million dollars hurting public schools, per se, in favor of it simply hurting someone, anyone. Who will it hurt? How will it hurt? Who will be effected, Tony?

Editorial, shmeditorial. Messenger failed to consider those who it will help, he discussed all the negatives without a single comment about who might be helped other than to say some children might be helped but not without adding that in the process those urban public schools will be abandoned. How? Is the state going to stop funding those public schools, Tony? No.

There may be legitimate reasons not to support the bill but instead of exploring those legitimate reasons Messenger has omitted, misinterpreted and misrepresented the bill, and yes, I will explain how, keep reading. He and his paper have an agenda, they are on record as opposing the bill regardless of what people call it and rather than give the public the facts about the bill they, through Messenger's editorial columns, have tried to influence others to oppose it for absurd and unrealistic reasons. It angers me. If Messenger was a simple blogger like myself that would be one thing. He isn't. There is no excuse for his misinterpretation and misrepresentation of HB 808. Period.

I've read the bill fairly closely. Tony claims in his editorial column today that the "tax credit" bill (ahem) requires that 80% of the revenues donated by tax payers must go to PRIVATE schools. The only mention of an 80% amount is in RSMo 135.713.4 (1), and it states:

"At least eighty percent of eligible revenues are allocated for educational assistance organizations for grants to eligible students to cover all or part of the tuition and fees at a QUALIFIED school, and that at least fifteen percent of the recipients are students receiving special education services with individualized education plans that reflect substantially the same distribution of the varieties of disabilities in statewide statistics for students receiving special education services. Of this amount, no more than twenty percent of eligible revenues shall be allocated for other approved educational expenses, including supplemental services such as private tutors, books and technology, or transportation to a public or nonpublic school outside of the eligible student's resident school district;" (emphasis mine)

Item 2, same chapter does state:

"No more than twenty percent of eligible revenues are allocated for public school foundation to be used for the benefit of public schools." (emphasis mine)

According to HB 808 a "public school foundation" is:

"a charitable organization registered in this state that is exempt from federal income tax under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986, as amended, that was created to secure donations to be used for the benefit of a public school district."

Messenger misinterpreted "public school foundations" as public schools and claimed that 80% of the eligible revenue was required to go to private schools. That's not true. Certainly the revenue can be used at a 'qualified school,' whether public or private, but only 20% of the eligible revenue can be allocated to public school foundations to be used for the benefit of public schools. It is a bit confusing but there is a difference.

I emphasized 'qualified schools' in the section of HB 808 I quoted above for a reason. What is a 'qualified school' under HB 808?

"qualified school", either a PUBLIC elementary or secondary school in this state that is outside of the district in which a student resides or a nonpublic elementary or secondary school in the state that complies with all requirements of the program;"

Public schools are every bit as 'qualified' as private schools to receive their fair share of that 80% in revenues that is to go to 'qualified schools,' they are as much 'qualified' under the definition given in HB 808 as private schools to take part in the receipt of that 80% of revenues.

I don't believe that Tony Messenger intentionally misled his readers when he claimed that 80% of the revenue was required to go to private schools. As I wrote, it is confusing, but shouldn't we expect the foremost newspaper in our city to spend the time necessary to get it right before they 'educate' their readers?

I would suggest, Springfield News-Leader subscribers, that you begin to question the motivations behind some of the columns you read in your paper. Is it possible there just might be a deep, dark, ulterior motive for what some columnists write? Messenger, to his credit, offered a link to the bill on his blog, just as I did in a previous blog entry. The problem is, how many people clicked on that link? Sometimes I wonder if writers don't put links like that on their blogs to establish credibility, I mean, surely he wouldn't put a link to the bill on his blog if he wasn't giving us a correct analysis of the bill, would he? It adds credibility just by being there. Sigh.

Don't take other people's words for things. Don't take my word for things. Study. Find out what the bill really says for yourself. Make your own individual decision about whether you support of oppose HB 808. I'm sure I wasn't blessed with all the higher learning with which Tony Messenger was blessed, and yet I figured it out. You owe it to yourself to find out the truth about important issues which effect your city and your state. Be a responsible citizen. Please.

I have not decided whether I either support or oppose HB 808. The purpose of all this ruckus on my part is because people can't make a proper decision if they are not properly informed in the first place. Get informed.

1 comment:

Momma Twoop said...

You've done a great public service with this one, Jacke. I wish there was some way to get this news out via the MS press in your area. Good luck!