SB 251 - This act establishes the Missouri Empowerment Scholarship Accounts Program.
For all fiscal years beginning on or after July 1, 2022, a taxpayer may make a qualifying contribution to an educational assistance organization and claim a tax credit in an amount equal to 100% 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, but a taxpayer may carry the credit forward to any of the following four tax years. Tax credits authorized under the program may not be transferred, sold, or assigned, and are not refundable.
An educational assistance organization shall meet certain requirements set forth in the act, and shall publicly report to the Department of Revenue, 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 Department shall provide standardized forms for program participants. Further, the Department or the State Auditor may conduct an investigation of any educational assistance organization if there is evidence of fraud.
If an educational assistance organization has failed to comply with program requirements, the Department may bar such organization from participating in the program, provided the Department notifies all affected qualified students and their parents.
The Department shall issue a report on the state of the program five years after it goes into effect, including information regarding the finances of the educational assistance organizations and the educational outcomes of the qualified students.
The act also creates the Missouri Empowerment Scholarship Accounts Fund and appoints the director of the Department of Revenue as custodian of the fund. Under this act, no more than 2% of qualifying contributions may be deposited into the fund for marketing and administrative purposes.
The provisions of the Missouri Sunset Act shall not apply to this act.
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.
The parent of a qualified student may establish an account for the qualified student by entering into a written agreement with an educational assistance organization providing that the qualified student shall receive an education in certain subjects; the student will enroll the student in a school operated by the qualified student's district of residence or in a charter school; the district of residence shall be released from the obligation of educating the student while the student is enrolled in the program; Missouri Empowerment Scholarship Account funds shall be used for purposes set forth in the act; and funds shall not be used 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 the student was participating in the program, the student shall remain eligible for participation in the program until he or she graduates from high school.(Section 166.705)
Beginning in the 2023-2024 school year, the Department shall conduct or contract for an annual audit of accounts to ensure compliance. A parent may be disqualified from program participation if the Director of the Department of Revenue determines that the parent is found to have committed an intentional program violation. The Department may refer cases of substantial misuse of moneys to the Attorney General.
A person commits a Class A misdemeanor if he or she is found to have knowingly used moneys for any purposes other than those set forth in the act.
This act is substantially similar to SB 160 (2019), similar to 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).