MSTA-Supported Retirement Legislation Sent to Governor
With the leadership of Sen. Rusty Black, SB75 was truly agreed and finally passed. The bill will expand the benefits of members of the Public School Retirement System of Missouri (PSRS) and Public Education Employee Retirement System of Missouri (PEERS). The bill includes support for a defined benefit pension programs across the state and includes several provisions supported by MSTA.
The bill includes the following provisions relating to PSRS/PEERS:
- Increases the retirement factor to 2.55 for those with 32 or more years of service. The legislation does not have a sunset as it did previously when the 2.55 multiplier was in effect from July 1, 2001 until July 1, 2014.
Increases the current annual earnings limit for any retired member of PSRS employed in a position covered under the Public Education Employee Retirement System of Missouri (PEERS) without stopping their retirement benefit.
Increases the time that a retiree can go back to work under critical shortage from 2 years to 4 years.
Increases the number of people eligible to work under critical shortages from a maximum of 5, to the greater of 5 or 1% of the staff of the district. This would help larger districts be allowed to have more employees working under critical shortage.
A member who elected to receive reduced monthly payments on or before September 1, 2015, with his or her same-sex domestic partner as the nominated beneficiary may have the retirement allowance increased to the amount he or she would have received if he or she had not elected to receive reduced payments.
Also amended onto the bill is language that would keep those previously classified as speech implementers in the PSRS plan regardless of if they moved into a SLPA licensure as well as language that would allow for an increase in the allowable critical shortage provision for St. Louis and Kansas City Teacher Retirement Systems.
Other sections of the omnibus bill that relate to retirement and pension plans include changes to the Missouri Department of Transportation and Highway Patrol Employees’ Retirement System, the Missouri State Employees Retirement System, Missouri Sheriffs’ Retirement System and Police Retirement System of St. Louis.
The legislature also passed SB20 (Bernskoetter) which contains the same PSRS/PEERS provisions as SB75. The bills now head to the governor’s desk for his consideration. If positive action is taken by the governor, the provisions of the bills will take effect on August 28, 2023.
Other major accomplishments supported by MSTA from this session can be found in the state budget. The legislature upheld their commitment to supporting public education across the state, passing over $9 billion dollars in funding in HB2 (C. Smith) which funds schools and the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.
Some of the highlights from the budget include full funding for the Foundation Formula and the K-12 transportation reimbursement. MSTA supported this vital increase in funding and support for students and teachers.
For teacher recruitment and retention efforts, next year’s budget will include $29 million for a 100% state funded Teacher Baseline Salary Grant program to raise their minimum teacher salaries to $38,000. The Career Ladder program will be funded with $69 million. Grow Your Own programs will be funded with $2.5 million to support local school districts and teacher preparation programs with teacher recruitment efforts and $2 million was included to create a grant program for support staff which must be used exclusively to support the hiring and retention of teacher assistants in classrooms.
As with every session, a large number of bills did not pass. Below is a list of legislation that did not pass in the 2023 session:
HB253 (Pollitt) would have negatively impacted teachers, students, and communities across the state, leading to school consolidation, the closing of schools and limiting the ability of students to receive a quality and robust education in their local community.
Parents Bill of Rights
SB4 (Koenig) the “parents’ bill of rights” bill that would have put into state law many provisions that are already accepted practice in districts to make sure parents are well informed on what is happening in their children’s classroom. SB4 would require school districts to report information to DESE to be maintained on a state government website and included on a report card. The cost of creating a massive statewide database of curriculum could cost more than $1.3 million.
Education Savings Account Voucher Expansion
HB350 (Christofanelli) and SB360 (Koenig) would have expanded the scholarship amount for education savings account vouchers.
Charter School Expansion
SB304 (Eigel) would have expanded charter schools to certain communities across the state.
Teacher Recruitment and Retention
HB497 (E.Lewis) would have modified the existing "Urban Flight and Rural Needs Scholarship Program" by changing the name to the "Teacher Recruitment and Retention State Scholarship Program” and included a large number of other bills, including legislation addressing teacher retirement, school safety, other teacher recruitment and retention programs. The legislation also included language that would have increased the minimum teacher salary in state law.
All bills that did not pass during the legislative session will have to be filed as new bills and work through the entire process again when the legislature begins a new session in January 2024.
Changes to Four Day Weeks
SB411 (B. Brown) would have changed the ability for locally elected school boards to adopt a 4-day school calendar. SB411 would allow students in a newly defined FLEX school to participate in public school activities. The bill creates a definition for a "Family-Led Educational eXperience (FLEX) school." FLEX schools meet the criteria for home school but applies to students who participate in the Missouri empowerment scholarship accounts voucher program or activities offered by a public school district.
HB529 (J. Black) and SB17 (Arthur) would have modified calculations to the foundation formula that funds public education in the state.
HB827 (Christofanelli) contained mostly non-controversial changes to Missouri’s virtual education law, the Senate took the bill up on the floor this week, but ultimately did not pass it.
Changes to Background Checks Passed
SB40 (Thompson Rehder) will remove a bureaucratic burden from educators, while adding additional protections for students and staff. Under current law, schools participating in the Missouri Rap Back Program may request a person's updated criminal history record if they have previously had a Missouri and national criminal record review, but a new background check that included the cost and time to submit fingerprints. This change in law will eliminate the need for fingerprints to be submitted every six years. This provision is also included in SB28 (J. Brown) that was passed and sent to the governor.
School districts will now be required to ensure that a criminal background check is conducted on any person who is 18 years old or older who is not counted in the school district's average daily attendance when that person requests enrollment in a course that will take place on school property at a time when K-12 students are present. The background check must be processed through the Missouri State Highway Patrol, and the person seeking admission will pay the fees for the background check. A person found to have been convicted of a crime or offense for which a certificate of license to teach would be revoked or not issued will be prohibited from enrolling in the course.
Thousands of MSTA members emailed, called, and visited their legislators in Jefferson City this session, and your advocacy made a difference. Involvement makes a difference and each connection matters. The summer and fall are a great time to connect with your legislator and invite them to visit your school, CTA, or Region.
DESE Reopens Career Ladder Application Window
The Career Ladder Program application window has been extended to May 31, 2023 to allow school districts additional time to participate if they choose. Many districts were still unsure what the FY24 state budget would look like when decisions on career ladder participation needed to be made. School districts may revise their existing plans or upload new plans. With the teacher baseline salary grant program fully funded from state dollars, many districts may now have more funds available to participate in the voluntary program.