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What is the timeline for Missouri's ESA program?
Families across Missouri are celebrating the passage of HB349 which will create Missouri’s first Empowerment Scholarship Account Program and provide real educational options to thousands of Missouri children.
But while the bill has passed through the Missouri General Assembly, there is still a long way to go before students start receiving scholarships.
While an exact timeline for full implementation is still unclear, here is a breakdown of the steps that have to happen before students are able to use this innovative program to access schools of choice.
The rulemaking process
On July 14, Gov. Mike Parson signed HB349 and the law went into effect on August 28, 2021.
HB349 requires the Treasurer’s Office to do a lot of the heavy lifting for implementing the new program including setting rules and guidelines for how tax credits will be issued, whether to use Education Assistance Organizations (EAO) or a state board to manage scholarships and how EAOs can operate if they are used.
All of these decisions will be made during a rule-making process that will involve public comment and could take from six to nine months to complete.
Rules have been filed with the Missouri Secretary of State and the 30-day comment period is expected to start on March 1.
Creation of EAOs, raising funds, and distributing scholarships
Once the rulemaking process is complete and a system is put in place to distribute tax credits in return for donations (either through EAOs or a state board) then funds still need to be raised for scholarships.
Thankfully, the tax-credit program outlined in HB349 is very generous and will hopefully make fundraising easy.
Under the program individuals, businesses and corporations can make a donation to the program and receive a 100 percent tax credit (up to 50 percent of their tax liability) in return for their donation.
Once enough money has been raised by EAOs then they will begin distributing scholarships to eligible students.
Most likely time frame for scholarships to be distributed
While there is still a lot to work out, it seems likely that the first Empowerment Scholarship Account scholarships could be issued to students in time to use them at the start of the 2022-23 school year.