2017 session comes to a close
The 2017 session has concluded. This year’s session was dominated by many bills that had passed through the legislature in previous years, but were vetoed by the Governor. With the election of Governor Greitens, a new push was taken to make changes to Missouri labor laws, an increase in education funding, as well as reforms to Missouri’s legal system and many of those bills sit on the Governor’s desk awaiting his action.
The legislature’s $27.8 billion budget is currently sitting on the Governor’s desk awaiting his action.
HB2 (Fitzpatrick) includes $3.392 billion for the foundation formula. This is projected to be full funding for the foundation formula. The legislature included an additional $45 million over funding for the current school year to reach this milestone. Public school transportation funding was also held at the current year appropriated amount.
The budget includes $5 million for the “public placement fund,” which reimburses schools for educating students placed within a nondomicile or state-domicile district by the Children’s Division, the Department of Mental Health, the Division of Youth Services or the court.
Other programs that received funding include broadband expansion ($6 million), STEM Pilot Program ($100,000), Teach for America ($750,000), and pre-school quality assurance program ($59,000).
With the legislature facing a $400 million deficit, legislators clearly made funding for K-12 education a priority. While there were increases to certain programs, there were some items that received funding last year that will no longer be funded. Those eliminated programs include math and science tutoring, Scholars and Fine Arts Academy, school safety training grants, early grade literacy program and funds to implement trauma informed instruction.
The State Board of Education will still need to decide if the funding provided for assessments will be enough to continue to implement statewide ACT testing. Other assessments will be funded, as well as the continued development of new assessments that are aligned with standards developed in Missouri.
A bill that started out as legislation to stabilize the contribution rate of the College and University Retirement Plan, which is a defined contribution plan for instructional staff at four-year public institutions other than the University of Missouri, turned into a major piece of retirement legislation.
SB62 (Hegeman) included provisions contained in HB304 (Pike) that creates a divorce popup for PSRS and PEERS retirees, provided the divorce decree grants sole retention by the retired person of all rights in the retirement allowance, an MSTA legislative priority.
Also included was HB305 (Pike). This legislation clarifies that PSRS retirees who are teaching part time in a district and employed by a private agency must also abide by the same restriction on hours worked as retirees employed directly by the district.
Also added to the bill was HB619 (Dogan), which modifies provisions relating to the St. Louis Public School Retirement System to create a second-tier retirement plan for the St. Louis Public School Retirement System. The bill reduces the benefit factor for new hires and for new creditable service for existing staff, increases the employee contribution rate from 5% to 9% and changes from a Rule of 85 to a Rule of 80 for retirement.
The bill now goes to the governor for his approval or veto.
As the 2017 legislative session comes to a close, everyone will look back and count the number of bill that passed as measure of the success (or failure) of the session. When it comes to legislation that effects public education, there were not many bills that passed. That does not mean that the legislative session was not successful.
If you look at what did pass, we must start with the state budget. The session started with a $400 million hole in the budget. It was unlikely that we would see much, if any, increases to the foundation formula. Many had projected that funding for transportation would be dramatically cut. At the end of a long and difficult budget process the general assembly appropriated full funding for the foundation formula and restored transportation funding to last year’s appropriated level.
It is also important to look at bills that did not pass. MSTA supported changes to the State Board of Education by putting an active classroom teacher on the board never really got traction this session, despite the hard work of MSTA advocates. Last year the bill passed the house. This just goes to show that each legislative session can take on its own character.
There were numerous bills that were opposed by MSTA that did not pass. An expansion of charter schools – HB634 (Roeber) – passed the house, but was never discussed by the Senate. An omnibus education bill – SB313 (Koenig) – included a voucher/tax credit scholarship for students with disabilities passed the Senate but could not get through the House. MSTA members sent more than 3200 emails through the Rapid Response program on the bills, and your time and effort made a difference. MSTA Capitol Visit attendance also increased this year and many members continue to develop valuable relationships with their legislators. On both of these bad bills, individual legislators stood strong with students, teachers, and communities against pressure that was placed upon them by supporters of the bills.
At the start of the session many organizations and individuals that support school choice looked at Missouri as a state where they could advance their anti-public education agenda. New well-funded out-of-state organizations arrived and hired lobbyists to help promote their cause. In the end, our general assembly stood strong in their campaign commitments to support public education, even though many bills did not become law.
While there were many tough decisions made regarding next year’s state operating budget, the outlook moving forward regarding state revenues meeting expected expenses remains murky. There is the possibility that the first phase-in of SB509 (2014) will go into effect, at a cost of $50 million dollars. When fully implemented, SB509 is projected to cost at least $650 million a year. A growing economy will combat some concerns, but continued growth of liabilities in certain government programs could continue to place a strain to provide enough money for revenues to meet expenditures. Looking forward to expectations for education funding, a new call on the formula will include an additional cost relating to expenses for early childhood education that are estimated at $60 million.
Upon taking office, Gov. Greitens, through executive order, formed the Governor’s Committee for Simple, Fair and Low Taxes. This committee will compare Missouri’s tax credit programs and tax rates to peer states, assess the economic impact of existing tax credit programs, and assess the possibility of financing cuts to overall state tax rates with cuts to tax credit programs. The committee is charged with recommending comprehensive tax reform legislation no later than June 30, 2017.
This committee is comprised of two former senators, a member of the governor’s staff, three State Senators, three State Representatives, and chaired by the Director of the Department of Revenue.
Public written comments have already been taken, and there are currently four town halls scheduled that will be forums to gather public opinion on Missouri’s tax system. Citizens will have the option to address the committee with questions and comments.
The Town Hall locations include:
Wednesday, May 17
JW Jones Student Union
NW Missouri State University Boardroom
800 University Drive
Monday, May 22
Hannibal Nutrition Center
219 South 10th Street
Friday, June 2
1625 North Kingshighway
Wednesday, June 7
Springfield Area Chamber of Commerce
Main Conference Room
202 South John Q. Hammons Parkway
A lawsuit was recently filed to strike the provisions of SB638 passed during the 2016 legislative session. A challenge based on an objection that the legislature violated the original purpose and single subject clause in the Missouri Constitution was filed in court in Jefferson City.
Some of the provisions of the bill were passed in other bills that were approved, and regardless of the outcome of the lawsuit, will continue to be law. Provisions in the bill included recognition of The Constitution Project of the Missouri Supreme Court, requiring the Pledge of Allegiance to be recited no less than once per day instead of once per week, the creation of the Legislative Task Force on Dyslexia, classroom CPR instruction, changes to charter school laws, gifted education provisions, creation of an early learning quality assurance report three-year pilot program, Trauma-Informed Initiative, and the extension of A+ scholarship program to students graduation from private schools.
Information on the progress of the lawsuit will be distributed to MSTA members as it becomes available.