AP NEWS

GOP dispute stalls governor’s adult scholarship program

May 1, 2019

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — A dispute among Missouri Republican senators over school choice is delaying a proposal for a $22 million adult scholarship program, an important piece of Gov. Mike Parson’s workforce development agenda.

The so-called Fast Track bill would provide money for adults seeking undergraduate degrees later in life for high-demand jobs.

But State Sen. Andrew Koenig, of Manchester, said Tuesday the proposal won’t pass unless it includes Missouri Empowerment Scholarship Accounts, which would give families tax credits for money spent on schools, whether public, private or online.

The Kansas City Star reports that Koenig’s threat is the latest move by the six-member Conservative Caucus, which has challenged other Republicans on Parson’s workforce agenda.

Fast Track is sponsored by state Sen. Gary Romine, a Farmington Republican who has filibustered school choice efforts in the past.

Koenig said stalling the Fast Track bill, which has been approved by the House, was payback after efforts to compromise on the voucher bill were resisted.

“I wanted to reciprocate the very thing he did to me,” Koenig said on the floor.

Some Caucus members who don’t like the Fast Track program said they would allow it to go to a vote of the full Senate if school choice is included.

“I cannot see a path for the so-called ‘Fast Track blank check to the Department of Higher (Education)’ bill to get forward to make it through this process without options for children and their parents that are not being well-served by public schools,” said Republican state Sen. Bob Onder of Lake Saint Louis.

Parson lobbied Conservative Caucus members personally last week to find a way to vote on Fast Track.

“We have to see the governor help us more with charter school expansion and ESAs,” said state Sen. Bill Eigel, a member of the caucus, when asked whether Parson’s appeal reduced caucus opposition.

After about four hours of debate Tuesday, the Fast Track bill was tabled. The legislative session ends May 17.

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Information from: The Kansas City Star, http://www.kcstar.com