All of the organizations interested in collecting and distributing Missouri’s new tax-credit scholarship funds for private schools have religious affiliations.
The application process to help manage the MOScholars program signed into law last year closes March 11. Groups that have indicated an intent to become “educational assistance organizations” starting next fall include Children’s Tuition Fund, an arm of the Colorado-based Association of Christian Schools International; and The Herzog Foundation, endowed by the late Missouri businessman Stanley Herzog. The foundation launched in 2020 “to catalyze and accelerate the development of quality Christ-centered K-12 education so that families and culture flourish,” according to its website.
The MOScholars program allows residents to receive a credit of up to 50 percent of state tax liability for donating to the educational assistance organizations. The groups then will grant the annual scholarships of up to $6,375, prioritizing students with special needs or from low-income families. Eligible students can apply for the scholarships to start in the 2022-23 school year. The state treasurer’s office is expected to publish its rules by early March on how the program will be run.
State Rep. Phil Christofanelli, R-St. Peters, who sponsored the bill last year, said it’s too early to comment on the groups applying to run the program. He said the law protects against religious discrimination by the educational assistance organizations. “It’s pretty well established in American law that you can’t discriminate for immutable characteristics like religion,” he said.
The program aims is to give families access to more options in a variety of school types, said Peter Franzen, associate executive director of the Children’s Education Alliance of Missouri, which is funded by school choice advocate Rex Sinquefield. The parent advocacy group has held informational sessions and received about 1,500 inquiries about the program.