The Catholic Church is getting involved in a Missouri ballot initiative that would create tax breaks for donating to nonprofit groups that offer scholarships or financial aid for parochial and private schools.
The Archdiocese of St. Louis contributed $300,000 to an entity backing the initiative, while the Missouri Catholic Conference chipped in another $11,000, according to campaign finance filings reviewed by the Kansas City Star. The church will also recruit volunteers to collect signatures to get the measure on the November 2014 ballot.
The initiative would amend Missouri’s constitution to allow $90 million in state tax credits to be claimed by organizations and individuals who donate to educational organizations. Half of the tax credits would be reserved for donations to public school districts, while 40 percent — about $36 million — would be reserved for donations to private and parochial schools.
That’s where the church comes in: The Archdiocese runs 148 schools in and around St. Louis, educating about 49,000 students from kindergarten through 12th grade.
“We believe this would very much help to stabilize enrollment — and hopefully to grow enrollment — within the Catholic and private schools,” George Kerry, an adviser to Archbishop Robert Carlson, told the Star.
Supporters of the proposed tax breaks must collect 146,907 valid signatures, or 8 percent of the total votes cast in the last gubernatorial election from at least two-thirds of Missouri’s nine Congressional districts, by May 4, 2014. School choice bills have failed several times in the state legislature in recent years.