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February 23, 2018

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School Voucher Bill Thwarted in MO Legislature, For Now

This week, the Missouri State Senate debated but did not take a vote on SB 612 , a voucher bill that would provide public money to private schools that are not accountable to taxpayers.

The bill establishes the Empowerment Scholarship Account Program. It allows a 100% tax credit for contributions to organizations that would use the money to fund accounts that parents could use to pay for private school tuition, homeschooling and other education expenses. Currently it applies to students with disabilities, students with parents in the military, or wards of the state, but the goal is to expand ESAs to all students. The program would cost the state as much as $25 million a year in revenue and would divert that money to private schools and home schooling parents, with no requirement that the schools receiving the funds admit all students and no oversight on whether a quality education is actually provided to the students.

The bill was also amended to allow the commissioner to assign a public school student to a different public school and the resident district must pay tuition for the students to attend the school when the distance from the student’s residence to their assigned school in the resident school district is 15 miles or more and the attendance center in the neighboring school district is at least 5 miles closer.

The bill now also contains a provision to allow what it calls "innovation schools" in certain school districts. These innovation schools are different from those outlined in HB 2200, a bill supported by the Missouri School Boards Association. It would allow certain school districts to enter into an agreement with a "leadership committee" of business and civic leaders to develop and operate an innovation school.

The bill could come back up for additional debate in the Senate at any time. For more information on the issue including talking points, visit the MSBA Action Center. Contact information for your state senator also is available through the Action Center.

For more information, contact MRH School District at (314) 644-4400.