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Missouri Senate amends House bill to ease passage of K-12 tax credit expansion • Missouri Independent

The Missouri Senate voted Wednesday night to ensure homeschool families are allowed to own firearms.

On a 27-4 vote, lawmakers approved legislation that originally was focused on cleaning up issues with Missouri’s virtual school program. 

But over the course of a five-hour recess in the Senate Wednesday, Republicans turned that legislation into a catch-all measure aimed at ensuring the House approves an even larger education bill approved by the Senate last month.

The bill approved Wednesday night was crafted to ease House concerns about a 153-page bill that passed the Senate to expand Missouri’s private school tax credit program and allowed charter schools in Boone County, along with other provisions aimed at bolstering public schools.

That bill’s sponsor, Republican state Sen. Andrew Koenig of Manchester, told The Independent he would prefer the House pass the Senate’s education bill without changes and send it to the governor’s desk. Any changes in the House would bring it back to the Senate for debate, putting its changes at risk.

After the Senate passed Koenig’s legislation last month, criticism began popping up on social media and in the Capitol about a myriad of issues — primarily that homeschooling families may face additional government oversight.

Despite assurances from gun-rights groups, one concern focused on the idea that homeschoolers’ inclusion in the private school scholarship program would result in home educators being subject to laws banning guns in schools. 

The Missouri Firearms Coalition made a statement that it felt that gun-ownership was not threatened in the bill. And an attorney for Home School Legal Defense Association Scott Woodruff was adamant that he was not concerned about the provision.

“The idea (the bill)…. would make the criminal penalties of (state firearm code) apply to home schoolers with guns in their home is supported, at best, only by a long, thin string of assumptions and implications,” he wrote.

But House members were flooded with emails and social media messages expressing concerns, putting the bills’ chances of passing without being altered at risk. 

Koenig said Wednesday that the ability to own a gun was not threatened by his bill.

“I don’t know that it was a problem, but this definitely makes it a lot stronger,” he said. “Anytime we can clarify something in statute, then we make sure that interpretation is stronger.”

The bill applies the existing homeschool statute to particular sections of state law — avoiding applying the definition of a “home school” to the state code that prohibits firearms on school grounds.

The legislation approved Wednesday night expanded beyond virtual schools to include  changes such as connecting funding for K-12 tax-credit scholarships to state aid for public schools’ transportation. This is current state law, but Koenig’s bill separated the two.

The bill also exempts Warsaw School District from taking a vote to reauthorize the district’s current four-day school week. If Koenig’s bill passes, school districts that have switched to a four-day week in charter counties or cities with at least 30,000 residents will have to hold a vote to continue with an abbreviated week.

Similar provisions are included in amendments to Koenig’s bill filed by House members. Fifty-three amendments have already been filed on Koenig’s bill in the House.

House Majority Leader Jon Patterson, a Lee’s Summit Republican, told reporters on Monday that he would prefer to pass the Senate’s version of Koenig’s bill but there was not a guarantee to do so.


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