After more than a decade of advocacy by the Missouri Catholic Conference (MCC), the Missouri General Assembly has passed legislation ending the discrimination in the A+ scholarship program. If signed by Governor Nixon, the program will allow Catholic and other nonpublic high schools to become A+ schools. At present only public high schools may become A+ schools.
The A+ designation allows students to earn A+ scholarships so that upon graduation they can attend a community college or other post-secondary technical or vocational institution.
The A+ provisions were added to a civics education bill, SB 638, sponsored by Senator Jeanie Riddle (R-Callaway) when the Missouri House considered the measure. State Representative Justin Alferman (R-Hermann) offered the amendment.
When the bill returned to the Senate, opposition surfaced to the A+ amendment, but Majority Floor Leader Mike Kehoe (R-Jefferson City) and Senator Bob Onder (R-St. Charles) worked with Senator Riddle to ensure the provision remained in the bill, which was finally approved by both legislative chambers after conference committee negotiations.
In order to earn an A+ scholarship, students must perform at least 50 hours of mentoring or tutoring, demonstrate good citizenship and end their high school career without at least a 2.5 grade average.
If SB 638 becomes state law, Catholic and other nonpublic high schools will be able to apply to the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) to become A+ schools. A+ schools must agree to require rigorous coursework of students, and have a partnership with local business and civic leaders that includes plans to provide counseling and mentoring for students entering the workforce.
State Representative Kathryn Swan (R-Cape Girardeau), chair of the House Elementary and Secondary Education Committee, provided critical support for the A+ amendment as the House handler of SB 638 during debate on the House floor.
State Representative Jay Barnes (R-Jefferson City) refuted arguments that adding the private schools to A+ would cost too much money. He also pointed out that the parents of these graduates were taxpayers, too, and deserved equal treatment.
For many years the MCC has heard from non-public high schools, such as St. Francis Borgia in Washington, Missouri, about their desire to become A+ schools so their graduates could obtain scholarship help in attending community colleges.
The MCC thanks all the MCC network members who contacted their State Senators on the A+ issue. In conference committee, legislators commented upon how they had heard from many constituents in support of the A+ amendment.