Mehlville school board considers refunding 1997 bonds

Board scheduled to also consider measure opposing vouchers


A proposal to refund general-obligation bonds issued in 1997 was scheduled to be considered earlier this week by the Mehlville Board of Education.

The Board of Education was scheduled to meet Tuesday night — after the Call went to press.

As proposed, the refunding of the 1997 general-obligation bonds maturing in 2008, 2009 and 2011 through 2013 will save the district roughly $696,000 in interest payments.

The school board previously had selected Banc of America to provide underwriting services to restructure the district’s debt, including refunding the 1997 general-obligation bonds.

Banc of America Vice President of Public Finance John Cary, a former Mehlville superintendent, and representatives of the district’s bond counsel, Gilmore & Bell, were scheduled to be present Tuesday when the Board of Education planned to consider a resolution authorizing the issuance of roughly $14,060,000 in general-obligation refunding bonds.

In a separate matter Tuesday, the Board of Education was scheduled to discuss and possibly take action on a resolution “opposing tax-credit scholarships and other voucher measures.”

The proposed resolution states that the school board:

• Values public education and is genuinely committed to providing a quality education for children.

• Recognizes that the Missouri Constitution prohibits using public money to support or maintain religious or private schools.

• Recognizes that tuition tax credits and other subsidies reduce the state’s tax revenues and decrease the amount of money available for public schools.

• Recognizes that private schools accepting tuition tax-credit scholarship money will not be subject to the strict accreditation standards of Missouri’s public schools.

• Recognizes that private schools accepting the scholarship money are allowed to maintain a selection process of whom they choose to educate.

• Further finds no substantiated evidence that tuition tax-credit scholarship and other voucher programs improve student achieve-ment.

The proposed resolution concludes by stating that Mehlville Board of Education members “join in opposition to tuition tax credits, private-school vouchers and other similar measures designed to erode support for Missouri’s public school.”

Board Vice President Karl Frank Jr. told the Call that he asked to have the proposed resolution placed on the agenda and firmly believes the board should adopt it.

“Recent events in the St. Louis City School system have given lawmakers in Jefferson City a false platform to stand on in favor of vouchers. They are relying on the general populace not to do their research and to support the voucher issue blindly,” Frank said.

The board vice president said he found it “abhorrent” that Senate President Pro Tem Michael Gibbons, R-Kirkwood, and House Speaker Rod Jetton, R-Marble Hill, are using the St. Louis Public Schools as an example of why vouchers are needed.

“There is a 77-percent student turnover every year in SLPS. Thirty percent of the children are homeless. Eighty-five percent of them are on free and reduced lunch, and the average student misses 27 out of every 100 days,” Frank said. “Vouchers will not fix poverty. As a matter of fact, a recent study by the RAND Corp. concluded that vouchers disproportionately benefit middle- and upper-income families.

“The voucher argument is not even logical. You don’t see people taking public tax money to build private roads and driveways. You don’t see people taking public money for personal security guards and firefighters, and we shouldn’t take public tax money, which is already in short supply, from the vast majority — 900,000 — of students that we educate in the state of Missouri,” he added.

Frank also raised an issue he said “no one is talking about. Vouchers are ripe for fraud. There is very little public oversight. Private schools can do whatever they want with the money and don’t have to report it back to the state. If people want to know what is happening with their tax money, then vouchers should be the furthest thing away from their minds.”

But he emphasized that his opposition to vouchers should not be construed as opposition to private schools.

“Don’t get me wrong, private schools have their place. They provide specialized education on topics that aren’t covered in the public realm and they provide the insulation from the rigors of the outside world that some parents want for their children,” Frank said, “To me, private schools should demand that they remain private. That is the purpose they serve. You can’t have your cake and eat it, too; at least not in a democratic society. But that is another topic for another day.”

Frank cited a quote from President John F. Kennedy — “If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich” — as summing up his position on vouchers.

“That should hit home for everyone, regardless of your socioeconomic status. Public schools are open to everyone; regardless of race, socioeconomic status, disability, religion or other predisposition,” he said. “As a good friend of mine, Dennis Lea, once said: ‘Public education is perhaps the greatest democratic institution ever formed by man.’ I’m a business man. I know what it is like to work hard for my money. I, too, want the best education possible for my dollar. That is exactly why I send my children to the Mehlville School District.”