Senator Ed Emery’s Legislative Report for Jan. 22, 2018

Advancing Learning

“I know no safe depository of the ultimate powers of the society but the people themselves, (A)nd if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them, but to inform their discretion by education. This is the true corrective of abuses of constitutional power.” – Thomas Jefferson

Education should be more about learning than about memorizing. It should be about learning to think, not being told what to think. My observations since being in the Missouri Legislature is that differing views regarding education reconcile most readily when the focus is on the student: the young men and women who are setting the direction of their lives.

The challenges that lie ahead of these students include marriage, children, occupation, vocations, religion and friendships… Who is equipping them and how.  The most common means of education is via the schools we typically call “public schools.” I usually refer to them as state-sponsored schools because the state typically has far more input and influence over them than the public. Nevertheless, regardless of what education choices are available to parents in states like Indiana, Florida, Mississippi or Nevada, 90 to 95 percent of students will attend these public schools.

Senate Bill 612 was heard Wednesday in the Senate Government Reform Committee with the purpose of satisfying the needs of the 2 to 10 percent of students whose parents believe their sons and daughters would be more likely to succeed in a different learning environment. Examples of differing education strategies include charter schools, which in Missouri are restricted by law to St. Louis and Kansas City. Another option, to which some students adapt readily is virtual school. Missouri has limited access to virtual courses but does not allow virtual school. SB 612 is a bill that truly opens the doors to parents with students whose needs do not conform to the state-school model.

The bill would allow scholarships to be financed by private individuals, businesses or corporations and partially recovered through income tax credits which are called Education Savings Accounts or ESA’s. The total amount of scholarship funding tax credits would be capped and students who qualified would be allocated a portion of what it currently costs the state on average for their education. Certain restrictions apply, but a parent could use their ESA for curriculum, private school tuition or even to attend a different public school that was better suited to their needs. Other states who have given parents choices for educating their children have consistently seen improved education outcomes for both the small percentage that choose alternatives as well as the students who do not – truly a win-win-solution to learning challenges.

There was testimony in the public hearing both in support and in opposition to the bill. I fully believe parents having choices so I may be prejudiced, but it seemed to me that those testifying in support presented positive student outcomes as their incentive while those who opposed the bill (teachers’ unions and associations representing school administrators and school boards) focused on what they perceived as threats to their institutions from competition. Even though public schools would actually see increased dollars per student, the opposition frequently addressed its objections to finances rather than student benefits.

ESA’s have helped families with students from special needs to those with exceptional potential. I have included links if you’d like to research structures and results. There are multiple sources of information, but the links provided are from

Thank you for reading this legislative report. You can contact my office at (573) 751-2108 if you have any questions. Thank you and we welcome your prayers for the proper application of state government.