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Missouri Chamber supports legislation to improve our workforce by giving Missouri students more educational options

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The Missouri Chamber supports providing Missouri students with better opportunities to obtain educational success. Ryan Stauffer, Missouri Chamber director of workforce and education policy, provided testimony in support of Senate Bill 32, legislation that would expand educational opportunities for students by providing them with more educational options that best suit their individual needs.

“When you empower parents with more educational options for their children, Missouri wins,” said Stauffer. “Students have the opportunity to receive a better, more customized, education that will more adequately prepare them for life and to enter our state’s workforce.”

Here’s how the legislation works: Families across Missouri could apply for Empowerment Scholarship Accounts (ESAs) that are made available to students that qualify under the bill. The accounts can be used like a flexible-use spending account, much like a health savings account, that families can then use on qualifying educational purchases such as private school tuition, online learning or tutoring. The amount available to the student is not to exceed the state adequacy target, roughly the same amount of state funds that is currently spent providing public education to a student. The scholarship accounts would be provided by educational assistance organizations. Businesses or individual taxpayers who make a qualifying contribution to an educational assistance organization may claim a tax credit for one hundred percent of the amount contributed.

According to a Gallup survey of 1,000 Missouri CEOs, employers have deep concerns about the state’s current education system. Only 15 percent of Missouri business owners agree that high schools are preparing students for the workforce, according to the survey. More than 90 percent felt that actions to improve education and workforce preparedness were absolutely necessary. Reforming Missouri’s education system is a key driver of Missouri 2030: An Agenda to Lead, the Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry’s strategic plan to make Missouri an economic leader.

“The popularity and demand in states that have implemented similar programs shows the value that ESAs have to parents and communities,” said Stauffer. “It is important that we provide access to a high quality education for all children across Missouri to help deliver the skilled workforce needed in our economy. It is time to empower families to take charge of their children’s education. This legislation is a step in that direction.”

Tax credits under the program would be capped at $25 million. The legislation is sponsored by Sen. Ed Emery, a Republican from Lamar.

For more information on this issue, contact Stauffer at 573.634.3511.

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