Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Tony Messenger Mugs Honest Debate on HB0808

In "Walks AND talks like a duck ...," found here, Tony Messenger writes:

"...no matter how you slice it, about $40 million will come from general tax revenues and be spent on primarily private schools. Not a voucher bill? Please."

Okay, Mr. Messenger seems to have a beef with proponents claiming it isn't a voucher bill but isn't that just a semantic game and is this the first time politicians have played such semantic games? I mean, we have the code word "redeployment" for troop withdrawl, we have "universal health care" to describe socialized medical care, we have "Progressives" instead of liberals. When is Mr. Messenger going to write a column about these semanic code words? When will he declare: "Not troop withdrawl? Please" or "Not socialized health care? Please."

Instead of making an argument about why taxpayers should not be allowed a deduction for charitable donations to benefit poor students who do not have access to a quality public school, Mr. Messenger attacks the semantics of those who support these tax credits. The terminology "tax credits" is used to describe all kinds of deductions, why shouldn't it be used in this case? It would be a tax credit as applied to those who make charitable contributions to support public or private schools for scholarships, wouldn't it? I think the term "voucher" in this case is inappropriate. A "voucher" implies something in the hand of the student or parent doesn't it? Like a coupon? Why yes! According to Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary a voucher is:

"a coupon issued by government to a parent or guardian to be used to fund a child's education in either a public or private school"

Where does HB0808 state that it will put a coupon in the hand of a parent or guardian to be used to fund a child's education, public or private?

Further, the Arizona law does give "limited vouchers," but from what I read in HB0808, I understand that the donated funds for which taxpayers would be given credit would be "allocated for educational assistance organizations for GRANTS to eligible students," there is a difference.

Come on, Mr. Messenger, if you oppose poor students having an opportunity to attend private schools which might offer a better quality education then why don't you just say so and make your argument against it? Why sensationalize the issue and play semantic games with your readers and pretend tax credits are the same thing as vouchers?

Further, so what if the bill was based on an Arizona law that has been challenged in court by teachers unions and the ACLU? Big whoop, the ACLU challenges laws every day. It is a court ruling which will decide the issue, not the fact that the law has been challenged, right?

Messenger linked this article in his column, Business tax credit for private school donations faces court challenge, from the Business Journal of Phoenix, well, okay. From the article:

"The lawsuit filed Tuesday in Maricopa County Superior Court by the ACLU,Arizona Education Association, Arizona Federation of Teachers and Arizona School Boards Association challenges the business tax credit and voucher program saying they violate the state Constitution, which prohibits the use of public money for religious schools."

So, they're being challenged, here's the other side of the issue is this, from the same article:

"Supporters of the tax credit and vouchers say they will withstand the scrutiny because the benefits go directly and equally to families and parents who then can decide how to spend that voucher money. They also point out that businesses can donate to any type of private school. "Education-assistance programs that treat the private choice of religious and non-religious people equally cannot violate the constitution," said Gary McCaleb, senior counsel for the Alliance Defense Fund, a conservative legal group."

Oh NO! The Alliance Defense Fund is challenging teachers unions and the ACLU! Call the fire department, Tony! Yikes!

Further, we've already established that the difference between the Arizona law and the Missouri bill is that the Arizona law offers limited vouchers whereas the Missouri bill offers grant monies.

Again, from the article, and these are the valid arguments. Instead of talking semantics why shouldn't we actually discuss the issue? The opposing viewpoints:

"Other conservative supporters and Catholic schools say the tax credits help build scholarship funds for needy students and offer families more choices. Teachers groups say the vouchers and private-school tax credits take money away from public schools and undermine the education system."

When did playing semantic games become the news? Geesh, give me a break.
Messenger asks...:

"...what is the true motivation of those trying to get it passed?"

...and in doing so implies that the Missouri Catholic Conference has some deep, dark, evil ulterior motive for supporting the Missouri bill.

I ask, what is the true motivation of those who would challenge it?" Isn't that an equally viable question?

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