SS/SCS/SB 160 - This act establishes the Missouri Empowerment Scholarship Accounts Program.
For all fiscal years beginning on or after July 1, 2020, a taxpayer may make a qualifying contribution to an educational assistance organization and claim a tax credit, as described in the act. Such tax credit shall equal 85% of the amount of the contribution. The amount of the tax credit claimed shall not exceed 50% of the taxpayer's state tax liability for the tax year for which the credit is claimed. Tax credits authorized under the program may not be transferred, sold, or assigned, and are not refundable.
The annual cumulative amount of tax credits that may be allocated shall not exceed $15 million in the first year and the second year, and $25 million in the third year and all subsequent years, and shall be adjusted annually for inflation. The State Treasurer shall establish a procedure to allocate the tax credits to the educational assistance organizations on a first come, first served basis. (Section 135.713)
An educational assistance organization shall meet certain requirements, including notifying 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; carry forward no more than 25% of the revenue from contributions into the following fiscal year; providing the State Treasurer, upon request, with criminal background checks on all employees and board members; annually administer either the state achievement tests or nationally norm-referenced tests and provide such results to the parents of participating students and to the State Treasurer; conduct an annual parental satisfaction survey; and demonstrate financial accountability and viability, as described in the act.
Each educational assistance organization shall publicly report to the State Treasurer, by June first annually, the name and address of the organization, 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 State Treasurer shall provide standardized forms for program participants. The State Treasurer or State Auditor may conduct an investigation of any educational assistance organization if it possesses evidence of fraud. In addition, the State Treasurer may bar an educational assistance organization from participating if the organization has failed to comply with program requirements.
The State Treasurer shall issue a report on the state of the program five years after it goes into effect. (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 school student who is a resident of Missouri and resides in a county with a charter form of government or a municipality with a population greater than 30,000, or any elementary or secondary student who resides within a public school district that has any part of the public school district boundary within a county with a charter form of government or any municipality with a population greater than 30,0000. Such student must also have attended a public school for at least one semester in the previous year, unless such student is eligible to enter kindergarten.
The student's parent 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 shall sign an agreement with an educational assistance organization to enroll the qualified student in a qualified school to receive an education for the student in certain subjects; not enroll the student, other than a student that is in the custody of the state, in a school operated by the qualified student's district of residence or in a charter school; release the district of residence from the obligation of educating the student while the student is enrolled in the program; use the Missouri Empowerment Scholarship Account money for only specified purposes; and not use the funds for consumable education supplies or tuition at a private school located outside of the state.
The scholarship accounts are renewable on an annual basis upon request of the parent of a qualified student. A qualified student 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 shall be returned to the educational assistance organization for redistribution to other qualified students. If a qualified student moves out of a county with a charter form of government or a municipality with a population greater than 30,000 before the end of the school year in which they were participating in the program, the student will remain eligible for participation in the program until they graduate from high school. (Section 166.705)
Beginning in the 2021-2022 school year, the educational assistance organization shall conduct or contract for an annual audit of accounts to ensure compliance. A parent may be disqualified from program participation if the State Treasurer determines that the parent is found to have committed an intentional program violation. The State Treasurer may refer cases of substantial misuse of moneys to the Attorney General. (Section 166.710)
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 166.715)
These provisions are similar to HB 34 (2019), HCS/HB 478 (2019), SB 612 (2018), SS#2/SCS/SB 313 (2017) and to provisions contained in SCS/SB 32 (2017), SB 609 (2016), SB 531 (2015), and HCS/HBs 1589 & 2307 (2016).
TRAVEL HARDSHIPS FOR STUDENTS
Under current law, if any student in St. Elizabeth or St. Albans applies to attend another school district, the Commissioner of Education is required to assign such student to another district if the driving distance from the student's residence to the school in the student's district of residence is at least 15 miles, and if the school to which the student would be assigned is at least 5 miles closer to the student's residence than the school in the student's district of residence.
This act would also allow a student residing in an unincorporated area of Maries county to apply for a reassignment by the Commissioner.
A student will be eligible to apply to be reassigned by the Commissioner if the student has applied for enrollment in a public school in his or her district of residence, but was denied. (Section 167.125)
This provision is identical to SCS/HB 485 (2019), and SS#2/SCS/HCS/HB 604 (2019).
This act modifies provisions relating to elementary and secondary education.
STATE BOARD OF EDUCATION INTERVENTION POWERS (Section 162.081): This act allows the State Board of Education to lapse the corporate organization of all or part of an unaccredited school district. If the State Board appoints a special administrative board for the operation of a part of an unaccredited school district, the State Board shall determine an equitable apportionment of state and federal aid for the part of the district. In addition, the school district shall provide local revenue in proportion to the weighted average daily attendance of the part governed by the special administrative board.
The State Board may appoint members of the elected board to a special administrative board, but members of the elected board shall not comprise more than 49% of the special administrative board.
When the State Board determines another form of governance for an unaccredited district, that other form of governance shall be subject to the following provisions of law: it will retain the authority granted to a board of education; it will expire at the end of the third year of its appointment unless reauthorized; it will not be deemed to be the state or a state agency; and it will not be considered a successor entity for purposes of employment contracts, unemployment compensation, or any other purpose.
If the State Board reasonably believes that a school district is unlikely to provide for the minimum number of school hours required in a school term due to financial difficulty, the State Board may, prior to the start of the school term, allow continued governance by the existing district school board under terms and conditions established by the State Board. As an alternative, the State Board may lapse the corporate organization of the district and implement one of the options available to the State Board to intervene in an unaccredited district. However, this provision shall not apply to any district solely on the basis of financial difficulty resulting from paying tuition and providing transportation for transfer students.
These provisions are identical to SB 25 (2019), SB 587 (2018) and similar to SB 23 (2017), SB 58 (2017), SS#2/SCS/SB 313 (2017), and HCS/HB 118 (2017).
PARENT NOTIFICATION OF UNACCREDITED STATUS (Section 162.1323): When the State Board of Education classifies any district as unaccredited, or when an attendance center receives two or more consecutive annual performance (APR) scores consistent with a classification of unaccredited, the district shall notify the parent or guardian of students enrolled in the district or attendance center of the loss of accreditation within 14 business days. The notice shall also include an explanation of which students may be able to transfer, the transfer process, and any services the student may be entitled to receive. The notice shall be posted in a conspicuous and accessible place in each district attendance center and shall be sent to each municipality located in the boundaries of the school district.
These provisions are identical to SB 25 (2019), SB 587 (2018) and similar to SB 23 (2017), SB 58 (2017), HCS/HB 118 (2017), and SS#2/SCS/SB 313 (2017).
EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATION (Section 163.018):
This act allows children who attend early childhood education programs that are under contract with school districts or charter schools that have declared themselves as a local education agency to be included in the average daily attendance of the school district or charter school.
This provision is identical to SB 25 (2019), SB 587 (2018), HCS/HB 118 (2017), SB 378 (2017) and HB 457 (2017), is similar to HB 594 (2019), HCS/SS/SB 218 (2019), SB 407 (2019, SCS/SB 465 (2019), and SS#2/SCS/HCS/HB 604 (2019).
TUITION (Section 167.131 and 167.132):
The board of education of each district in Missouri that does not maintain a high school offering work through the twelfth grade shall pay tuition as calculated by the receiving district, and provide transportation for each student resident therein who has completed the work of the highest grade offered in the schools of the district and who attends an accredited public high school.
This provision does not apply to students who attend an approved charter school in the same or adjoining county.
Under this act, the tuition rate paid by a sending school district to the receiving district is either the tuition rate set by the receiving district or the receiving approved charter school, or the state adequacy target plus the average sum produced per child by the local tax effort above the state adequacy target of the sending district, whichever is less.
These provisions are identical to SB 25 (2019), SB 587 (2018) and SB 559 (2018).
TRANSPORTATION OF PUPILS TO ANOTHER DISTRICT (Section 167.241): For transferring students, the district of residence is required to provide transportation only to school districts or approved charter schools designated by the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. DESE must designate at least one accredited district or approved charter school to which the district of residence shall provide transportation, but if the designated district or charter school reaches full student capacity and is unable to receive additional students, DESE shall designate at least one additional accredited district or approved charter school to which the district of residence must provide transportation.
These provisions are identical to SB 25 (2019), SB 587 (2018).
TRANSFER AND TRANSIENT STUDENT DATA (Section 167.890): DESE shall compile and maintain student performance data scores of all transient and transfer students enrolled in districts other than their resident districts and make the data available on the Missouri Comprehensive Data System. Personally identifiable information shall not be accessible on the database.
These provisions are identical to SB 25 (2019), SB 587 (2018), HCS/HB 118 (2017) and substantially similar to provisions contained in SB 23 (2017), SB 58 (2017), and SS#2/SCS/SB 313 (2017).
STUDENT TRANSFERS (Sections 167.895):
Any student may transfer to another public school in the student's district of residence if such student is enrolled and has attended, for the full semester immediately prior to requesting the transfer, an attendance center, as defined in the act, that is located within an unaccredited district and that has an annual performance report score consistent with a classification of unaccredited. However, such transfers shall not be allowed if the transfers result in a class size or assigned enrollment in a receiving school that exceeds the standards promulgated in the Missouri School Improvement Program resource standards. Any student wishing to transfer to a magnet school, an academically selective school, or a school with a competitive entrance process shall meet those admissions requirements in order to attend.
The school board of each unaccredited district shall determine the capacity at each of the district's attendance centers that have an APR score consistent with the classification of accredited. The district's school board is responsible for coordinating transfers within the district.
The school board of each unaccredited district shall annually make a report to DESE or its designee with the following information: the number of available slots in attendance centers that have APR scores consistent with the classification of accredited, the number of students who request to transfer within the district, and the number of such transfers that are granted.
Any student who is eligible to transfer within his or her district but who is unable to do so due to a lack of capacity in the attendance centers in his or her district of residence may apply to DESE or its designee to transfer to:
(1) An attendance center that is located within an accredited district that is located in the same or an adjoining county and that has an APR score consistent with a classification of accredited; or
(2) An approved charter school located in another district in the same or an adjoining county.
A student who is eligible to begin kindergarten or first grade at an attendance center located within an unaccredited district that has an APR score consistent with the classification of unaccredited and that offers classes above the second grade level may apply to DESE for a transfer to one of the two schools described immediately above. Such student is required to reside in the attendance area of the unaccredited school on March 1 preceding the school year of first attendance. A student who does not apply by March 1 is required to enroll and attend for one semester to become eligible.
Any student who does not maintain residency in the attendance area of his or her attendance center in the district of residence loses the eligibility to transfer. With exception as set forth in the act, a student who transfers but later withdraws shall also lose eligibility to transfer. No student enrolled in and attending an attendance center that does not offer classes above the second grade is eligible to transfer under these provisions.
An unaccredited district, provisionally accredited district, unaccredited attendance center, or provisionally accredited attendance center is not eligible to receive transfer students, except that, within an unaccredited district, students may transfer from unaccredited attendance centers to accredited attendance centers, and a transfer student who chooses to attend a provisionally accredited attendance center in the district of residence shall be allowed to transfer to the school if there is an available slot.
If a receiving district becomes unaccredited or provisionally accredited, or if an approved charter school loses such status, any students who previously transferred to the district or charter school shall have the opportunity to remain enrolled or to transfer to another district or approved charter school without losing their eligibility to transfer.
No attendance center that has received two consecutive APR scores consistent with a classification of provisionally accredited for the years immediately preceding the year in which it seeks to enroll transfer students may receive transfer students, regardless of its State Board classification designation, except that any student who was granted a transfer to the attendance center prior to the effective date of the act may remain enrolled in that attendance center.
Districts and charter schools that receive student transfers are not required to: exceed to class size and assignment enrollment standards of its approved policy on class size; hire additional classroom teachers; or construct additional classrooms unless the school board of the receiving district or the receiving approved charter school's governing board has approved the action.
By July 15, 2019, the board of education of each available receiving district and the governing board of each approved charter school shall set the number of transfer students they are able to receive for the 2019-20 school year. The board shall then set such numbers annually by February 1. They shall also publish such numbers and shall not be required to accept any transfer students that would cause it to exceed such number.
Available receiving districts and approved charter schools shall adopt a policy establishing a tuition rate annually for transfer students by February 1.
A student who has had their transfer application denied by a receiving district shall have the right to appeal the decision to the Department.
If an unaccredited school becomes provisionally accredited or accredited without provisions, any resident student who transferred under one of the transfer options shall be permitted to continue his or her educational program in that education option through the completion of middle school, junior high, or high school as specified in the act.
When costs associated with the provision of special education and related services to a student with a disability exceed the tuition amount, the transfer student's district of residence shall remain responsible for paying the excess cost to the receiving district or charter school. When the receiving district is a component district of a special school district, the transfer student's district of residence shall contract with the special school district for the entirety of the costs to provide special education and related services, excluding transportation. The special school district may contract with a district operating an unaccredited school for the provision of transportation of a student with a disability. A special school district shall continue to provide special education and related services, with the exception of transportation, to a student with a disability transferring from an unaccredited school within a component district to an accredited school within the same or a different component district within the special school district.
When the St. Louis City School District operates an unaccredited school, it shall remain responsible for the provision of special education and related services, including transportation, to students with disabilities. A special school district in an adjoining county may contract with the St. Louis City School District for the reimbursement of special education services provided by the special school district for transfer students who are residents of the unaccredited district.
Regardless of whether transportation is identified as a related service within a student's individualized education program, a receiving district that is not part of a special school district shall not be responsible for providing transportation to a student transferring under these provisions. A district operating an unaccredited school may contract with a receiving district that is not part of a special school district for transportation of students with disabilities. When a district other than St. Louis City operates an unaccredited school, it may contract with a receiving district that is not part of a special school district in the same or an adjoining county for the reimbursement of special education and related services provided by the receiving district for transfer students who are residents of the district operating an unaccredited school.
These provisions contain an emergency clause.
These provisions are identical to SB 25 (2019), are substantially similar to SB 587 (2018) and similar to provisions contained in SB 23 (2017), SB 58 (2017), HCS/HB 118 (2017), and SS#2/SCS/SB 313 (2017).
ELIGIBLE DISTRICTS (Section 167.898):
By July 15, 2019, and by January 1 annually, each district eligible to receive transfer students shall report to DESE the number of its available enrollment slots in accredited schools by grade level. Each unaccredited district shall report the number of available enrollment slots in the district's accredited attendance centers. Each approved charter school eligible to receive transfer students shall report the number of available enrollment slots by the same dates. DESE shall make information and assistance available to parents or guardians who intend to transfer their child using one of the transfer options. The parent or guardian who intends to transfer his or her child shall send initial notification to DESE by March 1 for enrollment in the subsequent school year. DESE shall assign transfer students as space allows.
When assigning students to approved charter schools, the DESE shall coordinate with each approved charter school and its admissions process if capacity is insufficient to enroll all students who submit a timely application. An approved charter school shall not be required to receive any transfer student that would require it to institute a lottery procedure for determining the admission of resident students. DESE shall give first priority to students who live in the same household with family members within the first or second degree of consanguinity or affinity who have already transferred and who apply to transfer to the same accredited school. If insufficient grade-appropriate enrollment slots are available for a student to transfer, that student shall receive first priority the following school year.
DESE shall consider the following factors in assigning schools: the student's or parent's choice of the receiving school, which shall be the most important factor; the best interests of the student; availability of transportation funding; and distance and travel time. DESE shall not consider student academic performance; free and reduced price lunch status; or athletic ability in assigning a student to a school.
DESE may deny a transfer to a student, who in the most recent school year, has been suspended from school two or more times or has been suspended for an act of school violence, as specified in the act. A student who is denied a transfer for this reason has the right to an in-person meeting with a representative of DESE. DESE shall develop administrative guidelines to provide common standards for determining disruptive behavior that shall include criteria under the Safe Schools Act.
These provisions contain an emergency clause.
These provisions are identical to SB 25 (2019), HCS/HB 118 (2017), substantially similar to SB 587 (2018), and similar to provisions contained in SB 23 (2017), SB 58 (2017), and SS#2/SCS/SB 313 (2017).
WORKFORCE INCENTIVE GRANTS
This act creates the "Fast-Track Workforce Incentive Grant" to provide grants for Missouri citizens to attend an approved Missouri postsecondary institution of their choice.
To be eligible, a student must meet certain criteria set forth in the act, including having an adjusted gross income of less than $80,000 if the taxpayer's filing status is married filing combined, or $40,000 if the taxpayer's filing status is single, head of household, or qualifying widow(er). In addition, such student must be at least 25 years of age. Grant funding may be renewed, but the student must continue to meet the eligibility requirements and must demonstrate a grade-point average of 2.5 on a 4.0 scale.
Eligibility for a grant expires upon the earliest of receipt of the grant for four semesters or the equivalent, receipt of a bachelor degree, or reaching 200% of the time typically required to complete the program of study.
The Coordinating Board for Higher Education must designate eligible programs of study by January 1, 2020. The eligible programs must be reviewed and updated by the coordinating board annually.
In addition, the Coordinating Board shall be the administrative agency for implementation of the program, shall determine the criteria for eligibility, shall evaluate each applicant's eligibility, and shall select qualified recipients. The Coordinating Board shall also determine eligibility for renewed assistance.
Grants shall be awarded in an amount up to $10,000 per semester. If a grant amount is reduced to zero due to the receipt of other aid, the eligible student shall receive an award of up to $500 or the remaining cost of attendance, whichever is less.
If appropriated funds are insufficient to fund the program, students applying for renewed assistance shall be given priority until all funds are expended.
Students may transfer the financial assistance from one approved public, private, or virtual institution to another without losing eligibility for the program.
Grants issued under this act are required to be repaid to the Department unless the eligible student qualifies for the grant forgiveness program. An eligible student will qualify for forgiveness if they agree to be employed in the state of Missouri within one year of the end of their program of study. Each 12 months of qualifying employment authorizes the forgiveness of one-third of the total amount of the grant or grants received. Grant forgiveness shall be approved by the Coordinating Board on a year-by-year basis. The Coordinating Board shall annually enter into a contract with each eligible student seeking forgiveness, and such contract shall contain elements set forth in the act.
Any eligible student who does not comply with the employment requirements shall be required to repay all outstanding grant balances.
This act creates in the State Treasury the "Fast-Track Workforce Incentive Grant Fund". The fund shall be used solely by the Coordinating Board for the purposes of this act.
The provisions of this section are similar to SCS/HCS/HB 225 (2019), SS/SCS/SB 16 (2019), and HCS/SB 68 (2019).