Students in metropolitan areas will be able to receive scholarship funds to attend the school of their choice under a bill signed Wednesday by Missouri Gov. Mike Parson.
House Bill 349 creates the Missouri Empowerment Scholarship Accounts Program. Missourians who donate to specific educational assistance organizations (EAOs) will receive a tax credit under the new law. Beginning with the 2022-23 school year, the EAO will award scholarships to eligible students with priority given to those with an individualized education plan (IEP) or if they are living in a household where the annual income qualifies them for free and reduced school lunches.
“These scholarships will make a significant difference in the lives of thousands of Missouri children,” House bill sponsor Phil Christofanelli, R-St. Peters, said. “I am incredibly grateful to the many people who helped make this idea a reality.”
The bill was criticized by public education advocates including teachers’ unions, which generally oppose school choice options nationwide. They argued giving tax credits worth $50 million will diminish funding for public schools. Others wanted the program to be implemented statewide.
“We are very disappointed with the decision by Gov. Parson to sign into law HB 349, the voucher bill that provides taxpayer dollars to private institutions that have no accountability to the public for how children are educated or kept safe or how tax dollars are spent,” Melissa Randol, executive director of the Missouri School Boards’ Association , said in a statement. “We are particularly disappointed that this law further erodes opportunities to fund needed investments in Missouri’s outstanding public schools. Missouri is 49th in the country in average starting teachers’ salaries – we need to invest in Missouri’s high quality teachers, rather than funnel money to institutions that have no accountability to taxpayers for how they spend taxpayers’ dollars or how they educate our children.”
If a student receives a scholarship and leaves their school district, the district may count the student for state funding purposes for five years. However, that provision ends in 2026.
The legislature approved the initiative by narrow margins. It advanced from the House in February on an 82-71 vote […]
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