SCS/SB 32 - This act establishes the Missouri Empowerment Scholarship Accounts Program.
For all tax years beginning on or after January 1, 2017, a taxpayer may make a qualifying contribution to an educational assistance organization and claim a tax credit, as described in the act. The tax credit is for 100% of the amount of the contribution. The tax credit may be carried forward for four years and may be transferred, sold, or assigned. Tax credits are also refundable. The annual cumulative amount of tax credits is limited at $25 million, which will be adjusted based on the growth of the program, as described in the act. The State Treasurer shall establish a procedure to allocate on the amount of tax credits amongst all educational assistance organizations on a first-come, first-served basis. The Treasurer may reapportion those tax credits to educational assistance organizations that have used all, or a certain percentage, of their tax credits. (Section 135.713)
An educational assistance organization shall meet certain requirements, including notifying the Office of the State Treasurer of its intent to provide scholarship accounts; being a 501(c)(3) organization; providing a receipt to taxpayers for contributions; ensuring that funds are used as specified in the act; distributing scholarship payments four times per year in an amount not to exceed the state adequacy target; providing the Office of the State Treasurer, upon request, with criminal background checks on all employees and board members; and demonstrating financial accountability and viability, as described in the act.
Each educational assistance organization must publicly report to the Office of the State Treasurer, by June first annually, the name and address of the organization, the name and address of each student who opened a scholarship account, the total number and dollar amount of contributions during the previous calendar year, and the total number and dollar amount of scholarship accounts opened during the previous calendar year. (Section 135.714)
The Office of the State Treasurer shall provide standardized forms for program participants. It may conduct a financial review or audit of any educational assistance organization if it possesses evidence of fraud. In addition, the Office may bar an educational assistance organization from participating if it has failed to comply with program requirements. (Section 135.716)
The provisions of the Missouri Sunset Act shall not apply to the program.
A student is eligible to receive funds in a Missouri Empowerment Scholarship Account if he or she is an elementary or secondary student and has attended a public school under circumstances set forth in the act or is eligible to begin kindergarten or first grade.
The student's parent or guardian shall only use the money in the account for certain expenses related to the qualified student's education, as described in the act.
The parent of a qualified student must sign an agreement to enroll the qualified student in a qualified school to receive an education for the student in certain subjects; release the district of residence from the obligation of educating the student; use the Missouri Empowerment Scholarship Account money for only specified purposes; and not use the funds for consumable education supplies.
The scholarship accounts are renewable on an annual basis upon request of the parent of a qualified student. Qualified students shall remain eligible for renewal until the student completes high school. If a qualified student withdraws from the program by enrolling in a school other than a qualified school, or is disqualified from the program for violations specified in the act, the scholarship account shall be closed and any remaining funds shall be returned to the educational assistance organization for redistribution to other qualified students. When a student withdraws from the program, the responsibility for providing an education for that student transfers back to the student's district of residence.
The funds remaining in the scholarship account at the end of a school year shall remain in the account for the following school year. Any funds remaining in the account after graduation from a qualified high school shall be returned to the educational assistance organization for redistribution to other qualified students.(Section 166.705)
A qualified school that enrolls one or more qualified students shall comply with academic accountability provisions set forth in the act. (Section 166.710)
The Office of the State Treasurer shall conduct or contract for an annual audit of accounts to ensure compliance. A parent or guardian may be disqualified from program participation, if the State Treasurer finds the parent or guardian committed an intentional program violation. A parent may appeal the decision of the State Treasurer to the Administrative Hearing Commission (Section 166.715)
A person commits a Class A misdemeanor if they are found to have knowingly used moneys for any purposes other than those set forth in the act. (Section 166.720)
This act is similar to provisions contained in SS#2/SCS/SB 313 (2017), HB 868 (2017), SB 609 (2016), HCS/HBs 1589 & 2307 (2016), and SB 531 (2015).