There has been a lot of talk lately about reform tax reform, governmental reform, health reform, education reform you name it. A meaningful discussion is needed on each of these topics.
By TODD WHITE
Special to The Star
However, in Missouri, a discussion has started at the state Capitol that is absolutely essential in terms of the conversation but extremely dangerous in terms of the solution.
House Bill 253 looks to revamp state income taxes by creating a tax cut designed to make Missouri businesses more competitive. The premise is understandable, especially for those of us on the Missouri/Kansas state line. We all want Missouri to compete favorably for jobs. However, some people mistakenly think the way to lead Missouri to prosperity is by copying Kansas fiscal policy.
Unfortunately, H.B. 253 seeks to improve the economic climate in Missouri at the expense of our schools, transportation systems and other vital community assets.
Will the bill give Missouri the advantage it seeks?
No one can answer that at this time. But we do know that current estimates show the tax cuts in the bill would be the equivalent to closing all state prisons, eliminating the Department of Mental Health or cutting funding to all colleges and universities.
If it is enacted, the effect on schools and other community services throughout Missouri is estimated to range from $800 million to more than $1 billion.
In the North Kansas City Schools, the tax cuts translate into our schools losing $4.5 million to $7.8 million per year once the law is completely phased in.
We cannot afford to have this happen. Our student enrollment is approaching 19,500, and we gain about 300 new students a year. We depend on both local taxpayers and state funding to educate these children.
It makes no sense to me to pass a tax cut that would make even less money available to our schools.
I think many school administrators, including myself, would feel differently if the state were able to fully fund its obligation to its schools.
I would also feel differently if the number of jobs created in order to offset this tax cut were far less than the 500,000 jobs needed to bridge the gap.
As I mentioned earlier, tax reform needs to be discussed, and it probably needs to happen, but H.B. 253 is not the proper response to this problem. People in our community are telling us they want students to be well educated, well trained and ready for what lies ahead after high school graduation. We can do this and do it well, if we are given the resources.
H.B. 253 was passed by the state legislature last session, but Gov. Jay Nixon vetoed it. Lawmakers are seeking to overturn his veto during their annual veto session on Sept. 11.
I am asking our state lawmakers to rework H.B. 253 so it does not hurt students. With the bill in its present form, the veto needs to stand.
You can choose to support our children, or you can choose to support H.B. 253. You cant do both without harming public education.
Todd White, Ph.D., of Kansas City, is the superintendent of North Kansas City schools.