When it comes to our children, we all want the same things: we want our children to have a great education, we want to empower them to achieve success, and we want them to have a future. As an educator myself, I can say there is no greater joy than to be able to inspire young people to dream big.

Our state has some great public schools and some very motivated educators. However, many families in our state come to find that the offerings of public schools simply are not able to meet the needs of their children. Some families have children with special needs that require special attention. Other families are trapped in districts with failing schools and want to ensure their children have a pathway to a good education. Still, other families may want to enroll their children in an online class or other advanced class not offered at their school.

That is why we as Missourians must support legislation to establish the Missouri Empowerment Scholarship Accounts Program. The program is very simple. This program would open doors for many families across the state to be able to attend a school that truly fits their child’s needs and interests regardless of where they live or how much they make. Families would be able to design their own education expenses. When a family enrolls in the Program, they will receive a tax credit whenever they make a qualifying purchase towards an education expense, such as hiring a tutor or enrollment in an online program. This would allow families to make purchases towards their children’s education and help students with special needs, students in foster care, or students in military families. The state decides what expenses count toward the program, ensuring accountability. Meanwhile, the program is capped at $25 million in the Senate Bill 160 so there is a ceiling of how much is allotted to the program. These Scholarship Accounts would go a long way in helping thousands of children throughout the state.

Similar programs in other states have led to improved student outcomes and similar programs are showing growing popularity with parents in surrounding states like Illinois, Kansas, Arkansas, Iowa, Oklahoma, and Tennessee. These are not vouchers and do not take money away from public schools. These programs actually save states millions of dollars which can then be rolled back into public education. Educating children are my specialty, and I love each and every one of my students. My desire is for them to have the education that best meets their needs no matter what that is, home school, charter school, public school, or online school. Choices make everything better. We have choices in everything from car brands to restaurants to airlines. It would make sense to give choices to the most precious gift we are given…children.

Parents and families should have the final say in what is best for their children, not administrators and bureaucrats. Education exists for the benefit of children and children alone. They are our future, and their education is of utmost importance. If some families decide that they need something different, then our state should empower them to choose a different path. These Empowerment Scholarship Accounts are a step in the right direction towards providing our children a brighter future.