Missouri Gov. Mike Parson signs education bills that include school choice expansion

(Daily Caller News Foundation) – The governor of Missouri signed two education bills Tuesday that included measures to expand school choice in the state.

Republican Gov. Mike Parson signed SB 727 and HB 2287, which included various education reform provisions, as well as expanding the Missouri Empowerment Scholarships (MOScholars) in the state, according to a press release from the governor’s office.

SB 727 increases the MOScholars program’s tax-credit donation cap from $50 million to $75 million, the bill reads. It would also increase qualifying the income level from 200% of the household income limit “used to for free and reduced lunch” to 300%.

HB 2287 made changes to words and phrases in the MOScholars program’s code who would be allowed to participate in the program. While “home school” students are prohibited from using it, students enrolled in “family-paced education school” will be able to participate in MOScholars.

With some home school families being skeptical about government funding through school choice programs as they argue it could lead to regulation, according to an article by the libertarian think tank Cato Institute, this appears to be an attempt to cater to traditional homeschoolers.

Cato Institute argued that legislation should specify that students who participate in school choice programs cannot be “legally classified as homeschoolers.” Utah, for example, defines “home-based scholarship student” as someone who uses the state’s program and a “home school student” as someone who does not use it.

The MOScholars program was originally established in 2021, and it would assist families in paying for a private school or virtual school, as well as additional expenses including tutoring and transportation costs, according to the Missouri State Treasurer Office.

In addition to the school choice measures in the legislation, teacher pay will be increased from $25,000 to $40,000 a year, charter schools will be able to expand in one county, and four-day school weeks will require districts to hold a public vote, the bills read.

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