News Alerts

ALERT - Missouri Empowerment Scholarship
Friday, March 11, 2022 by FHE

Dear FHE members and friends,

Emails commenting on the Missouri Empowerment Scholarship Account Program proposed rules written by the Missouri State Treasurer are needed as soon as possible. Please read to the end.  FHE’s comments are linked just below.  Background information and our concerns are detailed along with the link to the Treasurer’s rules document. What you can do is explained at the end.

If you agree with FHE’s concerns, you can email or write to the Missouri State Treasurer.

The comment period to do so is March 1-30, 2022.

FHE’s comments are posted here, Comments to the Treasurer.
We have concerns with Proposed Rules 1, 3, 4, and 6 in particular.

Email your comments to [email protected].  Feel free to refer to  FHE and that you stand with us OR add in your own comments if you choose to do so.

OR Mail comments to:

Office of the State Treasurer

Harry S. Truman State Office Building

PO Box 210

Jefferson City, MO 65102

Background information:

During the 2021 Regular Session the Missouri legislature passed and the Governor signed into law HB 349 and SB 86 which established the Missouri Empowerment Scholarship Accounts Program. A limited scope of students qualifies for the scholarship.

RSMo 166.700(8) defines a “qualified student”:

 Any elementary or secondary school student who is a resident of the state of Missouri and resides in any county with a charter form of government or any city with at least 30,000 residents and

  1. has an IEP developed under the federal IDEA program, or
  2. is a member of a household whose total annual income does not exceed 200% used to qualify for free and reduced-price lunches and meets at least one of the following:
    1. Attended a public school as a full-time student for at least one semester during the previous twelve months; or
    2. Is a child who is eligible to begin kindergarten or first grade.

Now the Missouri State Treasurer, Scott Fitzpatrick, is tasked with writing the rules for implementing the provisions of the Missouri Empowerment Accounts Scholarship Program which is now known as MOScholar on the State Treasurer’s website.

*Definitions for clarification:
1. Statute: A law enacted by a legislature.
2. Law: The body of rules and principles governing the affairs of a community and enforced by a political authority; a legal system.

Therefore, a statute is the law and may be used interchangeably


FHE did not support HB 349 or SB 86 and continues to have some concerns about the standardized testing requirement, as well as the home school parent and student privacy of personally identifiable data collected by the state treasurer’s office and the Educational Assistance Organization. These concerns will have to be addressed through the legislature.

Our immediate concern is with the proposed rules to implement The Missouri Empowerment Scholarship Accounts Program. The new statute requires the Missouri State Treasurer to write the rules to implement the new scholarship program. The proposed rules have been written and have been recorded by the Missouri Secretary of State in the Missouri Register, Volume 47, Number 5 Pages 318-320, March 1, 2022 (click on hyperlink to view).  (PDF pages 20-22)

The proposed rules for a “qualified home school” are:

1. Comply with the anti-discrimination provisions of 42 U.S.C. section 2000d;

2. Agree to not share, refund, or rebate any Missouri Empowerment Scholarship account funds with the parent or qualified student in any manner;

3. Submit a proposed curriculum plan;

4. Submit background checks for every adult who resides in the home school;

5. When requested, produce the records required to be maintained under section 167.031.2(2)(a), RSMo; and

6. Provide any other information as requested by the treasurer.

A. Within fifteen (15) days of receipt of a completed qualified student application and home school certification, the educational assistance organization shall provide the treasurer an initial approval in accordance with the criteria set forth above, unless granted an extension by the treasurer or the educational assistance organization determines a denial is necessary.

B. Within fifteen (15) days of receipt of a home school certification that has received initial approval from an educational assistance organization, the treasurer shall notify the parent and the educational assistance organization that the home school certification application has received final approval or denial.

FHE’s concerns are with proposed rules 1, 3, 4 and 6:

  1. Proposed Rule #1, “Comply with the anti-discrimination provisions of 42 U.S.C. section 2000d”.

RSMO 166.700(7),

(7) "Qualified school", a home school as defined in section 167.031 or any of the following entities that is incorporated in Missouri and that does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, or national origin: (a) A charter school as defined in section 160.400; 16 (b) A private school; (c) A public school as defined in section 160.011; or (d) A public or private virtual school;

As the sentence is structured in the statute, proposed rule 1 does not apply to a “home school”.

  1. Proposed Rule #3, “Submit a proposed curriculum plan”.

The Missouri Scholarship Accounts program does not require a home school to submit a proposed curriculum plan. RSMo 167.031.2 requires a lesson plan book, diary, or other credible written evidence, but does not require a curriculum. This would stifle the parental options to be creative in educating their child.

Also, the statute clearly states in 166.720. 1. Sections 166.700 to 166.720 shall not be construed to permit any governmental agency to exercise control or supervision over any qualified school in which a qualified student enrolls other than a qualified school that is a public school.

And RSMo 166.715, states A qualified school shall not be required to alter its creed, practices, admissions policy, or curriculum in order to accept students whose parents pay tuition or fees from a Missouri empowerment scholarship account to participate as a qualified school.

  1. Proposed Rule #4, Require Background checks.

The only section which includes “background checks” is in 135.714.1(7).

 (7)  Provide the state treasurer, upon request, with criminal background checks on all its employees and board members and exclude from employment or governance any individual who might reasonably pose a risk to the appropriate use of contributed funds;

This reference is referring to the Educational Assistance Organization employees and board members in relation to the funds. There is nothing in the statute requiring home school parents be required to submit to background checks.         

  1. Proposed Rule #6, “Provide any other information as requested by the treasurer.”

There is nothing in the Missouri Empowerment Scholarship Accounts Program statues that gives the treasurer this kind of open-ended authority to request information, etc. Any information requested by the treasurer should be in line with the statute requirements and openly listed. The proposed rules require a home school to submit the home school records required in RSMo 167.031.2(2)(a) when requested. This should be sufficient.

(a)  Maintain the following records:

  a.  A plan book, diary, or other written record indicating subjects taught and activities engaged in; and

  b.  A portfolio of samples of the child's academic work; and

  c.  A record of evaluations of the child's academic progress; or

  d.  Other written, or credible evidence equivalent to subparagraphs a., b., and c.; and

In summary----

If these rules stand, what will the Missouri Empowerment Accounts Scholarship Program (MOScholar) do:

  • Adds additional record keeping and forms to the current Missouri State Homeschooling laws for those who use the program
  • Gives unlimited power to the State Treasurer over homeschoolers who use the program
  • Opens the door for the state to monitor homeschooling
  • Require background checks on only homeschooling parents using the program but not public school, private school, or other parents using the program
  • Requires mandatory standardized testing on homeschool students who use the program (this is built into the Missouri Empowerment Scholarship Accounts Program statute)
  • Additional requirements (such as background checks, financial records, and list of participants) to co-ops and other homeschooling groups if funding is allowed to be used to participate in those groups

Things the MOScholar (Missouri Empowerment Scholarship Program) will not do:

  • Parents using the program will not have the same freedoms as homeschooling parents not using the program
  • The standardized testing will not show true growth and academic success of students

If you agree with FHE’s assessment of the needed changes to the Missouri Empowerment Scholarship Accounts Program (MOScholar) proposed rules to be more in line with how homeschooling laws are in the State of Missouri please consider sending your comments to the Missouri State Treasurer’s Office before March 31, 2022. You can tell them you stand with the FHE comments sent to the Treasurer’s email concerning the Missouri Empowerment Scholarship Accounts Program.  


Comments

Lori Tolan From Florissant Mo At 3/12/2022 7:15:54 PM

I agree with athe FHE and the comments they submitted regarding the change in definition what constitutes legitimate Homeschool. I oppose the changes as outlined in the proposed legislation

Reply by: Families for Home Education

Lori, you will need to email your comments to the State Treasurer's Office. [email protected] Thank you for supporting FHE.

Jennifer Nolen From High Ridge, MO At 3/12/2022 12:11:29 PM

I stand with the FHE and the comments they've submitted regarding the change in definitions of what constitutes a legitimate home school. I oppose the changes as outlined in the proposed legislation.

Reply by: Families for Home Education

Hi, Jennifer. I got your message here on our FHE website. I also emailed you directly in hopes that you will see it. :) Thank for standing with us, but this needs to go to the State Treasurer's office. You can email the same comment to [email protected] Kim Quon FHE Region 5 Director [email protected]

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