Two school choice bills pass committee, head to Missouri Senate floor

(The Lion) — Two bills to expand school choice in Missouri passed out of the Senate Committee on Education and Workforce Development on Tuesday.

SB 360, sponsored by Sen. Koenig, R-District 15, would expand the state’s MOScholars program, which currently funds scholarships worth just over $6,000 per student for families to use on qualifying educational expenses, including private school tuition.

The program is funded through donations which are eligible for 100% tax credits of up to half of the giving individual’s or business’ state income tax liability.

The new bill would revise the program by raising the total tax credit cap from $25 million to $75 million per year, increasing scholarship amounts for students with Individualized Education Plans, eliminate homeschool background checks, expand geographic limits (to include any county with a city of 30,000 or more), and eliminate income limits altogether. 

SB 255 would go further, offering a state-funded “Education Savings Account Program” without geographic restrictions or prior public school attendance requirements. 

The only substantial limitation for eligibility is household income, set at 200% of the standard to qualify for the National Free or Reduced-price Lunch Program. For a family of five, for example, the income requirement would be $120,140 for 2023. 

Like the other bill, SB 255 also includes protections for homeschool families: “Nothing in this section shall be construed to mean home school students are not free to choose any curriculum they desire or that they will be requested to give personal information to the department or any other government entity.”

Both bills, which now head to the Senate floor, give the state treasurer responsibility for administering the programs. 

The Senate will also hear a universal school choice measure, SB 81, sponsored by Sen. Mary Elizabeth Coleman, R-District 22. 

“State government should be working for Missouri’s working families with solution-focused policies that actually make a difference in their lives,” the bill’s sponsor, Sen. Mary Elizabeth Coleman, told The Lion, just before the bill passed out of committee in January.  

“We can give parents the freedom to send their kids to the school of their choice.” 

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