It’s a new year in education for Missouri families. While we may be right in the middle of a school year, the education landscape in Missouri just got a fresh new start thanks to the Empowerment Scholarship Account (ESA) program that is going into effect this year. This ESA program can give families up to $6,375 to help with the educational expenses of their child in K-12 education.
One of the biggest priorities for the American Federation for Children has been making sure that state governments substantively support families seeking options in education. I would say that we want state government to “put its money where its mouth is” when it comes to education, but, in reality, it would be putting the taxpayer’s money where its mouth is. Money should follow the student, not the school house, which is why state-funded education savings accounts have been a top priority for AFC for years. Missouri families are fortunate that our state has finally adopted this life-changing program.
The program is simple: qualifying families can choose to take their children out of traditional public schools and to find alternative education options–this could be a private school, home school, virtual school, or charter school. Qualifying families will receive up to $6,375 in funding to pay for these alternatives. ESAs aren’t limited to just covering tuition either; they can pay for textbooks, tutors, testing costs, transportation costs, even computer hardware.
Of course, families should do their research to see if their child may qualify, and to also see what options are available through ESAs. More information is available at this helpful website: https://www.showmeschooloptions.org/. I implore families interested in public school alternatives to check it out and to see what ESAs can do for their children.
This program will be funded in large part by donations made by private individuals and organizations. Donors will receive a 100% tax credit on every dollar donated, up to 50% of their total state income tax liability for any given year. That means for many Missourians, there will be no cost in making some donations, as at least part of their tax liability will be canceled thanks to the tax credit. This is a preferred way of giving for many Missourians, as it guarantees that the money will go towards helping fund education for a child in-need, rather than be spent on some wasteful project.
Families deserve to know about the options available to them for their children’s education. ESAs are a powerful tool in service of K-12 education. For families with children who qualify for free or reduced lunch or have an individualized education program (IEP), ESAs represent a path to a better future with less financial burden. I have always believed that a quality education should not be determined by a child’s zip code. Missouri has shown that it understands that simply having options in education is not enough if families are still priced out from accessing those options. Multiple studies by EDChoice show that school choice leads to better outcomes in public schools.
Thanks to ESAs, the playing field has been leveled a bit, and now a quality education is within the grasp of thousands of qualifying families. For qualifying families, ask yourself what $6,375 could mean for your child’s education, and look into whether ESAs are the right choice for your child. If you’re in a position to donate, ask yourself what you would rather see your tax dollars go towards: wasteful spending programs or childhood education? For all Missourians, ESAs represent hope in our state’s K-12 system.