September 3, 2022

Parents in Missouri have new options for K-12 education, thanks to the MO Scholars program, and those willing to donate to the program can also see benefits. This innovative program just went live, and families are now able to apply for up to $6,375 in funding for K-12 education options for the 2022 fall semester. You have heard me talk about the Educational Savings Account (ESA) program before. Two years ago, the General Assembly passed historic legislation to make this program a reality for parents and students throughout the Show-Me State. Now, the program is up and running, and you need to make sure to apply to be able to utilize it.

This program is designed to help low-income students and students with special needs access better educational options. These funds can be used for tuition and fees at a qualified school, including school districts, charter schools and private schools, as well as educational materials, tutoring and more.

To qualify for an ESA, a student must be a Missouri resident who is attending an elementary or secondary school. They must also reside in one of the following places: Kansas City, St. Louis City, Springfield, Columbia, Independence, Lee’s Summit, St. Joseph, Joplin, Jefferson City, Cape Girardeau or in the counties of Clay, Jackson, Jefferson, St. Charles or St. Louis. In addition, the student must also have an Individualized Education Plan or an Individual Service Plan, or reside in a household whose total annual income does not exceed an amount equal to 100% of the standard used to qualify for free and reduced lunches.

The hard truth about this program is that the only way for it to grow is for people to apply. The good news is that the program has only been operational for a handful of weeks, and over $3 million in tax credits have been reserved for it. We want it to continue to grow, and the only way for it to do so is for parents to apply to receive the program’s benefits.

For those who want to donate to the program, now is the time. Again, the only way for this program to grow is for people to donate so those who qualify can receive scholarships. The way that it works is that donors reserve tax credits through the MO Scholars online system, then make a contribution to an Educational Assistance Organization (EAO). Contributions will be used to fund scholarships, and donors will receive a dollar for dollar tax credit that can be used to offset their Missouri income tax liability.

I’m a small-government conservative. I don’t like taxes, but unfortunately they are a reality. At the end of the day you can give your taxes to the government, or you can donate money to an EAO and change a kid’s life. When you think of it that way, the choice is pretty simple.

To learn more about the MO Scholars program and how to apply, please visit treasurer.mo.gov/MOScholars/Default.

Please feel free to contact my office in Jefferson City at (573) 751-1464. For information about legislation I have sponsored or my work in the State Capitol, please visit my official Missouri Senate website at senate.mo.gov/Cierpiot.

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