HB 349 Creates Opportunity (For Some)
Some Missouri children will finally be able to sign up for tax credit–funded scholarships. But why not all?
Much has been written about the newly signed HB 349. For those who don’t know, HB 349 creates scholarships for families to use for their children’s education. The scholarships will be funded from taxpayer donations, and in exchange donors will get a credit on their state taxes. The scholarship funds can go toward private school tuition, books, tutoring, or other education-related costs. (The program basically works as a kind of Education Savings Account.) Legislators are realizing that education may need to be different for each student, and this program will give parents the resources to pursue the best education for their children in whatever unique form that might take.
But this opportunity is only available to Missouri citizens in cities with more than 30,000 people. Eligible students (low-income students and those with disabilities) in the City of St. Louis, St. Louis County, St. Charles County, Jefferson County, as well as the areas around Kansas City, Springfield, and Columbia will be able to benefit from this program. Not so for families living anywhere else in Missouri. Some critics argued in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that “if the program was good for the state, it should apply to the entire state,” The implication being that since the program wasn’t adopted for every city, there must be something wrong with it.
But it’s not a bad program. There’s just more work to be done convincing other areas (especially rural communities) of the benefits of school choice. The Missouri Empowerment Scholarship Accounts program is good for the state, and it should apply to the entire state. All of Missouri’s families, urban and rural, should be given the opportunity to pursue the best education for their children.