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Tax credits.

I generally agree with Dr. Wilbur Rich's well-detailed recipe ("St. Louis Blues," features, Winter 2008) for legislative failure regarding the 2005 and 2006 tax credit proposals in Missouri. Like any good connoisseur of school politics, Rich pays close attention to inputs and outcomes. In his article, race, partisanship, and cartel politics represent the major ingredients in this recipe. As Rich adopted "the blues" as a working metaphor to explain the defeat of tax credit bills in Missouri, I have chosen "soul food" as the metaphor for my response.

Soul food is only as good as the cook and the ingredients used in its preparation. Too many cooks in the kitchen contributed to the failure of the tax credit proposals. Republican Jane Cunningham and black state representatives Ted Hoskins and Rodney Hubbard, both Democrats, were the original cooks. Missouri Democrats watered down the tax credit bills with "killer amendments," while the state teachers union and the AFL-CIO added extra helpings of sour cream and vinegar. By the time this motley crew turned off the stove, the tax credit bill had lost its flavor and its soul.

Taste determines the authenticity of soul food. In the Missouri legislative battle, no matter how many times the sponsors called their bill a tax credit, opponents convinced diners that the bills smelled like, and had the consistency of, "school vouchers." Because of the opponents' successful this-bill-will-leave-a-bad-taste-in-your-mouth campaign, few people had the stomach to support it.

Parental choice supporters nationwide should study Rich's recipe before attempting to enact a school reform law. Since I was on the frontline of a similar legislative battle in 2006, I will offer two suggestions: First, cooks and ingredients needed for this battle are not found solely on the Hill; they also must be gathered in the 'hood. Second, soul food cannot exist without intense heat. It is needed to break down ingredients to create a jazzlike harmony of taste. Similarly, parental choice coalitions must bring together a proper blend of ingredients at the right temperature to achieve success in the legislative arena. These ingredients at minimum include an adult-size serving of money, a healthy dose of bipartisanship, and organic community ownership. To win a legislative battle for parental choice, bring the fire next time.



Black Alliance for Educational Options
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Article Details
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Title Annotation:correspondence
Author:Robinson, Gerard
Publication:Education Next
Article Type:Letter to the editor
Geographic Code:1U4MO
Date:Mar 22, 2008
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