What legislation to watch in 2018 Pt. 2

Jan 8, 2018

A variety of bills have already been filed which could have major impacts on education choice in Missouri in 2018.

 

Virtual education/Course access

Bills impacting virtual education/course action have been filed in both the state House and Senate.

Representative Bryan Spencer’s HB1408 would allow any student in the state to enroll in virtual education through the Missouri Course Access Program (formerly Missouri Virtual Instruction Program) with approval from a school counselor in their home district or charter school. Under the bill, the home district would be required to pay tuition up to the equivalent of a full-time student.

On the Senate side, Senator Gary Romine has filed SB576 which would also allow any student to enroll in virtual education courses through a similar program (this time called The Missouri Course Access and Virtual School Program) if such enrollment is approved by the home school principal. Romine’s bill would also require the home school to pay for the tuition costs, but would require an individual learning plan for any student taking 2 or more full-time courses through the program.

Senator Robert Onder has two bills that would impact virtual education, SB603 and SB668. SB603 is almost identical to Spencer’s bill while SB668 would require the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education to publish an annual report on virtual education enrollment numbers and costs.

Finally, Representative Donna Lichtenegger’s HB1267 would allow college students in financial need to get funding to attend a virtual non-profit college through the Access Missouri Financial Assistance Program.

Education Savings Accounts

Three bills have been introduced that would create a limited education savings account system in Missouri called the Missouri Empowerment Scholarship. Representative Dan Stacy’s HB1639 and Senator Andrew Koenig’s SB612 would both create up to $50 million in tax-credit funds to be used to provide empowerment scholarships.

Those students could use the funds to employ a private tutor, pay for textbooks, pay fees for Advanced Placement exams, pay for specialized therapies, purchase computers needed for education, or pay for summer or after-school education programs. Scholarship funds would also roll-over from year to year allowing families to save for future expense.

Senator Ed Emery’s SB565 has similar provisions but would cap the total fund for scholarships at $25 million per year and limit scholarships only to students with special needs, students in foster care, or students of military families.

Finally, Representative Lindell Shumake’s HJR55 proposes a Constitutional amendment which would eliminate the current prohibition (known as the Blaine Amendment) on the use of public funds to pay for education at a religious institute.

Check back on Thursday to learn about proposed bills which would increase computer science course offerings, improve transparency and increase accountability at schools throughout the state.