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Missouri legislators continue to wrestle with education reform bills

Missouri legislators have debated education reform for at least a decade, and the discussion is continuing in this legislative session

An education savings accounts program managed to clear a major hurdle, barely passing out of the House after heated debate and a rare speech from the House speaker, “The Missouri Independent” reported. But on the other side of the building, a sweeping school-choice package in the Senate was tabled after nearly 12 hours of debate.

It remains to be seen if Senate Bill 55 — the expansive education bill that includes provisions such as tax credits to help fund scholarships for expenses such as private schools and expanding charter schools to more than 50 districts statewide — will be able to be molded into legislation that can garner the support it needs for initial approval.

READ: How Covid may build momentum for school choice

The debate in the Senate and the House underscores the complicated and dynamic views on school choice measures in the legislature, which don’t fall neatly along party lines or geographic boundaries.

“For either side, mine included, to think that the only acceptable path forward is, ‘us,’ is, ‘my thing,’ is ‘the status quo,’ is just unimaginable at this point,” Senate Majority Leader Caleb Rowden, R-Columbia, said during a debate last week. “To politicize the future of our kids and the next generation and dwindle it down to the number of votes in a chamber… who are we to play God?”

At the start of the session, House Speaker Rob Vescovo, R-Arnold, declared education reform one of his top priorities. He made a rare speech last Thursday that made that commitment clear.

“When I was 16, I dropped out,” he said. “That was 28 years ago. What has changed in education in the state of Missouri in 28 years? The only thing that’s changed is we’ve gotten more and more special interests in this building that care about their own special interests. Please, remember your special interest is your kids. That’s who matters.”

–Alan Goforth | Metro Voice