The State Board of Education’s three remaining seated members met Monday to hear public testimony on what qualifications Missourians would like to see in a new state education commissioner. MSTA was the only association that represents teachers that provided testimony.
“The involvement of teachers and other school personnel is vital to the success of our state commissioner and the State Board of Education,” stated Tonni Schmidt, MSTA president. Schmidt added that “to truly understand the needs of the students across the state, it is important to actively seek the input of teachers and to involve us in the creation and execution of initiatives and the general direction of DESE.”
The most recent state education commissioner, Margie Vandeven, was fired last month in a 5-3 vote by the board. The votes to remove her came only from the interim appointments made by Gov. Eric Greitens. The governor repealed and resubmitted his five appointees for the SBOE last week, which means the board is without a quorum until the state Senate can confirm the appointees sometime before the end of the current legislative session.
In the meantime, President Charlie Shields, Vice President Vic Lenz and member Michael Jones heard public testimony as previously scheduled. Others who testified shared that the values they desired in a commissioner included proactive communication with education stakeholders, transparency, respect of local control of education and a student-centered focus.
At the conclusion of the hearing it was announced that 10 people had applied to be the next commissioner. The whole process of selecting a commissioner is essentially stalled until the SBOE has a quorom. The application process ended Monday, as designated by the state board last month. Shields said the names of applicants would not be made public until finalists are decided.
“How we proceed after this really depends on when we have a board quorum. We need five members to decide how to proceed, and whether that means to create and reopen the search process, which I consider to be highly likely,” Shields said. “We’re in somewhat uncharted waters,” he added.
On Wednesday, Gov. Greitens delivered his second State of the State address. His remarks touched on many of the administration’s successes and challenges over his first year in elected office. The governor first mentioned Missouri’s business climate, including a low unemployment rate and job growth. He also spoke on his success in shrinking state government, including selling airplanes and cars and cutting “red tape” in the form of eliminating rules and regulations from Missouri.
The governor’s speech focused on two major policy issues: reforms for children in Missouri’s foster care system and increased support for veterans and their families. Greitens asked that members of the legislature put their differences aside and work to accomplish the more than 20 initiates that have been proposed to help children in need.
The most sweeping initiative the governor proposed during his speech was a pledge to unveil “the boldest tax reform in the country,” but he said that the plan would not be available until next week.
Greitens did not unveil an executive budget or outline new legislative priorities for education during the speech.
Committees in the House did not waste any time getting started holding hearings on education related bills. Hearings were heard on education related bills in the Elementary and Secondary Education Committee as well as the committees on Higher Education and Workforce Development.
The Elementary and Secondary Education Committee addressed a series of bills that were passed by the House last session but did not get passed by the Senate. Those bills included:
HB1371 (Sommer) requires any district with an approved gifted education program to have a process, which must be approved by the district’s board of education, that allows parents or guardians to appeal a determination that their child does not qualify to receive services through the district’s gifted education program.
HB1421 (Pfautsch) contains the same provisions of HB1371 in addition to provisions that allows for the subject or whole grade acceleration of any student.
HB1660 (Swan) allows a school district to rely on technical coursework and skills assessments developed for industry-recognized certificates and credentials. The bill requires the Career and Technical Education Advisory Council to annually review, update, approve, and recommend a list of industry certifications, state-issued professional licenses, and occupational competency assessments. This bill also modifies the composition of the Career and Technical Education Advisory Council by adding the Director of the Department of Economic Development, or his or her designee. MSTA testified in Support.
HB1665 (Swan) allows the State Board of Education to grant an initial visiting scholar certificate as a license to teach in public schools. The applicant must be employed in a content area in which the individual has an academic degree or professional experience. He or she may only teach classes for ninth grade or higher and the hiring school district must verify that the applicant will be employed as part of a business-education partnership initiative designed to build career pathways systems for students. The certificate will last for one year and the applicant can renew it a maximum of two times.
HB1408 (Spencer) changes the Missouri Virtual Instruction Program (MoVIP) to “The Missouri Course Access Program” (MCAP) and allows any K-12 student to enroll in MCAP courses, to be paid by the school district or charter school, and that is a local educational agency, if the student is enrolled in a school district or charter school has attended such school for at least one semester immediately prior and has received approval from his or her school counselor or other designated person as described in the bill. The school district or charter school shall pay the course provider directly on a monthly basis until the student discontinues enrollment and shall not pay more than 14% of the state adequacy target.
The Committee on Workforce Development heard the following bills:
HB1415 (Lauer) allows a teacher to count hours spent in a local business externship as contact hours of professional development. MSTA testified in support.
HB1455 (Lauer) requires high schools to provide students with resources and information regarding industry-recognized certificates and credentials, in demand occupations and skills, typical salaries for trending occupations, obtaining financial assistance, and self-employment as well as resume creation, interviewing, networking, and finding job opportunities. The Department of Economic Development shall annually identify occupations that are experiencing a critical need or shortage of trained personnel.
HB1677 (Lauer) provides students the opportunity to choose between the ACT WorkKeys assessment or ACT (including ACT Plus Writing) assessment in any school year in which DESE directs a state-funded census administration of the ACT assessment, or in which a school district directs the administration of the ACT assessment. MSTA testified in support.
The Higher Education Committee heard HB1520 (Cookson) that would increase the minimum teacher salary beginning in school year 2019-20 from $25,000 to $30,000, subject to appropriation. The minimum salary for the holder of a masters’ degree with at least 10 years teaching experience is raised from $32,000 to $35,000. The Minimum Teacher Salary Fund is created for moneys appropriated to be distributed to each school district on the basis of the difference between the required minimum salary and the salary reported by the district on core data for each teacher who does not make the minimum salary. If the appropriation is insufficient to meet the need, the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education must prorate the appropriated amount so that the shortfall is equally distributed among all eligible teachers. MSTA testified in support.
Legislative budget leaders, as well as the governor’s administration, recently announced the state’s consensus revenue estimate for fiscal year 2019 and revised their projections for the 2018 budget. The consensus revenue estimate is the projection of the revenue that will be available to run programs funded by the state of Missouri. The current year projection was cut in half, while the next fiscal year budget, which runs from July 1 to June 30, will be crafted based on 2.5 percent growth. This growth, according to the office of administration, will result in increased revenue of $229.3 million. This projection is lower than in past years, with leaders pointing at decreased revenue due to the effects of the federal tax reform bill as well as tax cuts previously passed in Missouri that went into effect this year. With this data, the House and Senate will begin working on crafting a balanced budget.
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