Testimony in Support of HB 2499 – Expanding Eligibility to the A+ Scholarship Program

Date: January 31st, 2024
To: Representative Bill Hardwick, Chairman, and Members of the House Committee on Emerging Issues
From: Gwen Smith, Criminal Justice Policy Manager, Empower Missouri
RE: Support for HB 2499

As the largest and oldest anti-poverty non-profit in our state, Empower Missouri is committed to improving the quality of life for all Missouri residents through advocacy. Since our inception, Empower Missouri has focused on the criminal justice system and its impacts. Our Community Justice Coalition consists of community advocates and organizations from across the state who work with those who have been impacted by the criminal justice system. Many coalition members are formerly incarcerated or have currently incarcerated loved ones, and all are connected by a vision for a future without mass incarceration.

We are providing testimony today in support of HB 2499, sponsored by Representative Farnan, which expands eligibility for the A+ Scholarship Program to students currently deemed ineligible due to previous drug convictions. 

Investing in one’s education is one of the most meaningful actions a person can take towards a better future. For those with past drug convictions who have struggled with addiction, the ability to pursue educational opportunities can mean the difference between moving forward or returning to their old habits. Comprehensive research has shown that education reduces recidivism rates: a 2023 meta-analysis found that participation in any educational program decreases the odds of recidivism by 17-19% on average, with enrollment in college reducing recidivism by 42.5%. 

Students looking to invest in their future should not be held back because of past mistakes. Empower Missouri urges this committee to take action to pass HB 2499 into law. Thank you for your time and consideration of this matter.

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