Education Freedom Makes its Way to Missouri
This year has seen a lot of big wins for education freedom, with policymakers and parents equally motivated to reimagine the current system of learning. Already this year we have seen three states pass legislation to create Education Savings Accounts, including Kentucky, Indiana and West Virginia. After last week’s passage of HB 349, Missouri is now poised to be the fourth. This year’s tidal wave of pro-freedom legislation in education has nearly doubled the number of states with ESA programs.
HB 349 is funded through a tax-credit mechanism that offers individuals and corporations a 50% credit on their state income tax liability in exchange for donations to the ESA program. The bill will only apply to students in charter counties and areas with a population exceeding 30,000, though this will still qualify about 50% of the state’s children for the program. Additionally, the program is only triggered in fiscal years in which the legislature and governor choose to fund student transportation at 40% of the state’s formula. Like most states, Missouri’s program will allow families to use the funds for things like private school tuition, textbooks, special needs services, tutoring, testing fees, and even transportation to and from school.
ESAs are about choice and the recognition that not every school can meet the needs of every child. While one child might succeed in the local public school, another might do better in a virtual school. While one child might succeed in a homeschooled environment, another might do better in a public school. Freedom in education is not about prioritizing one school system over the other – it’s about kids and communities and allowing parents to make the best decisions possible for their kids.
For the almost 70% of Missouri parents and 64% of parents nationally supporting ESAs, HB 349 represents a tremendous victory. ALEC’s model policy on ESAs, called the Education Savings Account Act, provides a solid foundation for legislators who might be considering implementation of ESAs in their state.