Newly elected Missouri Governor Eric Greitens has announced that K-12 education reform will be one of his top priorities. He has called for more prudent use of public funds, and for a broader range of educational options for parents. The Missouri General Assembly has answered the call with a slew of bills addressing everything from education savings accounts to technical certification programs in high-schools. It is too soon to tell which, if any, of the bills will become law, but the sheer volume of “education reform” legislation moving through the process speaks volumes about the general assembly’s appetite for reform. Recent legislative activity includes:
- Senate Bill 32, sponsored by Sen. Ed Emery (R-Lamar), would create Education Savings Accounts for students with learning, development or physical disabilities. Sen Emery presented a revised version during a hearing before the Senate Government Reform Committee which would include all students in Missouri. Beginning on or after January 1, 2017, a taxpayer may make a qualifying contribution to an educational assistance organization and claim a tax credit. Educational assistance organizations must meet certain requirements. The tax credit is capped at $25 million; funds are administered by the State Treasurer and distributed through education assistance programs that will award the funds to parents of qualified students through a debit account. Many education groups voiced their oppositions to the measure citing lack of funding for the current foundation formula, lack of financial oversight of the schools receiving the funds, and lack of accountability. Opponents testified schools receiving funds should be held to the same standards as public schools.