Empowerment Scholarships Considered by Senate Committee

This week the Senate Committee on Government Reform heard a bill that would offer empowerment scholarships to parents wishing to choose nonpublic schooling for their children. SB 32 is sponsored by State Senator Ed Emery (R-Lamar). The scholarships would be offered by nonprofit educational assistance organizations. Tax credits would be available to people making charitable contributions to these organizations. The organizations would use the money raised to provide scholarships for K-12 schooling.

During this week’s hearing, Senator Emery offered a substitute bill for SB 32 that expands the students who can participate. As originally filed, the bill was limited to children with disabilities. If the committee adopts the Emery substitute the legislation will allow participation by children who do not have a disability.

SB 32 primarily focuses on helping public school parents who want scholarships in order to transfer their child to a nonpublic school. The scholarship could be renewed annually after the transfer as the student completes his or her K-12 education. The Missouri Catholic Conference is supporting SB 32 while urging Senator Emery to allow for the participation of children already enrolled in nonpublic schools. Such a change would increase the bill’s fiscal note, however, and so there is some reluctance to expand it in this fashion. Nevertheless, even as proposed by the substitute, SB 32 represents a major step forward in giving parents more choices in their children’s education.

Governor Greitens has expressed support for empowerment scholarships and SB 32 garnered widespread support during the committee hearing. Stay tuned for more.