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Missouri moves to restrict schools from using public funds on campaigns 

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — A bill signed into law this week restricts school boards and districts from using public funds on elections, a move proponents said would protect Missouri taxpayers

Sen. Dan Hegeman’s SB 86 restricts schools from using public funds for political purposes, including support or opposition of ballot measures or candidates or to support political organizations. Purposeful violations of the bill are punishable as a misdemeanor. 

Hegeman said he filed the bill based on a controversy surrounding the St. Joseph School Board which was sued over the use of taxpayer money to promote 2017’s right to work referendum. The lawsuit was dismissed shortly before the election, with the court finding state statute preventing the use of public funds for elections pointed to political subdivisions rather than school districts. 

“School resources are public funds, and that district was accused of a misuse of those funds, and the outcome of that was the court found that in certain circumstances school boards and districts could use public funds for campaign purposes,” Hegeman told The Missouri Times. “Most people would agree that you shouldn’t use public funds to run campaigns, so the bill basically makes it clear that they can’t do that. It just tightens up the law on contributions.”

House handler Rep. Ben Baker, who was on hand for the bill signing, said the bill was one of his biggest priorities in the statehouse and a vital way to protect Missouri taxpayers.

 “This bill makes sure that we’re protecting taxpayer dollars,” Baker said. “It’s something I campaigned on and worked on to make sure that we keep moving in the right direction.” 

The bill was signed Wednesday morning alongside Rep. Phil Christofanelli’s education savings account (ESA) legislation. Christofanelli and Hegeman worked together on an amendment to SB 86 altering the new program in an effort to assuage concerns over the cost of the new system.