Republican Rep. Phil Chrisofanlli is sponsoring a bill that would allow families more control over education spending.

A bill that would establish an education savings account program in Missouri had its first hearing Tuesday in a Senate committee.

HB 349 would establish the Missouri Empowerment Scholarship Accounts Program, allowing taxpayers to claim a tax credit of up to 50% of their tax liability for contributions to educational assistance programs. The funds would be placed in education savings accounts that families could use for tuition, textbooks, tutoring and other education services.

Bill sponsor Rep. Phil Christofanelli said the legislation provides a remedy for the state’s education system.

“I think it is agreed across all ideologies and political beliefs that at times Missouri falls behind in its attempts to provide these students with an education that allows them to realize their full potential,” Christofanelli said. “This bill seeks to fill that void.”

Among those speaking in favor of the bill was a representative from the American Federation for Children as well as a former teacher and parent who said the bill would provide more choice for parents and bolster the performance of Missouri students.

“Adopting a one-size-fits-all policy from the state level has not been the best solution,” Sarah Hartinger said. “While this debate over school choice continues every year, Missouri students and education results suffer. As an educator and a mother, this breaks my heart, and we must do better.”

Among those who argued against the bill was Keith Rabenberg, who spoke on behalf of the Missouri School Boards Association. Rabenberg suggested that reports that Missouri schools are failing are “isolated incidents” and that public school districts “are doing a good job, and oftentimes do an excellent job.”

Education savings accounts have been debated in both Missouri chambers over the years. The same act stalled in the Senate in 2019.

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