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Legislature Completes Work on FY24 State Budget

The Missouri General Assembly has completed work on the FY2024 state operating budget. The budget for the fiscal year that will begin July 1, 2023, includes almost $50 billion in spending from state and federal funds and shows a continued commitment from the legislature to increase funding for public education.

HB2 (C. Smith) is the budget bill for public education and the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. It fully funds the foundation formula with more than $4 billion and $346 million for K-12 student transportation. The budget includes increased funding for pre-kindergarten education programs.

The Teacher Baseline Salary Grant program will have $29 million in funding, districts will be able to receive a 100% state funded grant to raise their minimum teacher salaries to $38,000. The Career Ladder program will be funded in the next fiscal year to include $69 million for the optional program, a significant increase over last year’s appropriated amount. Grow Your Own programs will be funded with $2.5 million to support local school districts and teacher preparation programs with teacher recruitment efforts. $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.

$2.5 million has been earmarked for a statewide school safety software system that connects law enforcement with school safety plans in the event of an emergency call for service. $3 million will go toward the construction of a school safety training center to provide experienced-based realistic training for school safety officials, educators and first responders that is focused on prevention, preparedness, response, and recovery.

Funding to support students includes $3 million for research-based youth digital mental health services, provided through a three-pathway approach that includes access to a peer support community, self-guided therapeutic tools, and real-time text therapy, funding for character education initiatives, dyslexia programs, and comprehensive literacy development. The legislature included $11.1 million for funding to Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library Program, allowing all children up to age 5 in Missouri to participate in the program that provides one book each month to participants in the program.

The final budget does not include $1.3 million for a massive state database of curriculum that would be controlled by the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education if SB4 becomes law. Also removed from the final version was language that would have restricted any expenditure of state funds associated with diversity, equity, and inclusion.   

The budget now heads Governor Mike Parson’s desk for his consideration on which programs will be funded or possibly vetoed.

Retirement Legislation Keeps Momentum

SB75 (R. Black) began as a bill to support teacher retention efforts and strengthen the Public School Retirement System of Missouri (PSRS) and Public Education Employee Retirement System of Missouri (PEERS) has been expanded and has become an omnibus pension and retirement bill that includes mostly non-controversial changes to law. The legislation 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.  

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.

HB934 (Hovis) also includes many of the same sections that were approved in SB75, the House bill was presented in the Senate General Laws Committee. MSTA testified in support.

Other bills that include PSRS/PEERS retirement legislation: HB155 (O’Donnell), HB497 (E. Lewis), SB20 (Bernskoetter).

SB75 was approved in the House by a vote of 147-1. The bill will now head back to the Senate. The Senate can approve the House version of the bill, or it can be sent to a conference committee comprised of members of both chambers to create a version to be approved before it is sent to the governor for his consideration.

House Committee Expands SB411

SB411 (B. Brown) was voted out of the House General Laws Committee after the bill was expanded to include other bills that have been presented to the committee. 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. The committee modified the language that would change the ability for locally elected school boards to adopt a four-day school calendar. It would now create different calendar rules for school districts located wholly or partially in charter counties or cities with more than 30,000 inhabitants. Districts that have adopted a four-day week in those areas prior to July 1, 2022, would be able to continue to operate on a four-day week, but other districts would be required to take the issue to a vote of the people. It appears this provision would only impact the Independence School District. MSTA opposes this change in locally elected school boards determining their school calendar. MSTA Adopted Resolutions support a school calendar being made by a local school board with input from teachers and other school employees.  

Other language that was added to the Committee Substitute for SB411 include:

HB809 (O’Donnell) requires DESE to develop a curriculum on personal finance to be used by school districts.

HB887 (Riley) establishes the STEM Career Awareness Activity Program.

HB1163 (Peters) relates to special education records.

The bill will now head to a House Rules Committee before it may be placed on the House calendar for consideration. Since the House changed the bill, it will have to go back to the Senate for another vote if it is approved by the House in the last week of session.

Where Are Bills With One Week Remaining in Session?

There are still a number of education bills that would impact teachers, students and schools across the state that could be considered this session. Here is where some of the remaining issues are in the legislative process with one week remaining. The 2023 Missouri General Assembly will adjourn at 6 p.m. on Friday May 12.

Open Enrollment

HB253 (Pollitt) is on the Senate calendar and could come up for debate at any time. Open enrollment will negatively impact 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.    

MSTA opposes open enrollment based on MSTA Adopted Resolutions, with the following concerns:   

School Consolidation: Open enrollment will lead to school consolidation; this legislation could leave districts unable to support all students in the community. Students remaining in community schools that have been consolidated will be forced to endure longer bus rides while districts that remain open will struggle to maintain the educational programs they already offer such as FFA, choir, band and athletic programs. In many Missouri communities, these kinds of tough decisions have already been made due to a lack of funding and will increase the difficulty of recruiting and retaining education staff.  

Special Education: Allows districts to deny students based on special education status if the transfer district determines they cannot meet the special education student’s needs, allowing districts to discriminate against special needs students.   

Financial Implications/Anti-Collaboration: Will pit schools against one another to compete for students and the funding associated with them. Funding that would normally go toward student learning would be spent on recruiting students and competing with neighboring districts. Creates competition for the sake of competition, districts not in the same situations are forced to devote time and treasure to recruiting students while still attempting to provide a quality education to all the students that remain in the district.    

Increased State Influence: Mandates that schools adopt a model policy developed by DESE or “another entity skilled in policy development” to determine the number of transfers available.  This policy must be adopted by schools even if they decide not to participate in the open enrollment program.   

MSTA opposes legislative actions involving the concept of inter-district choice and open enrollment.  

Virtual Education

HB827 (Christofanelli) is also on the Senate calendar, it contains mostly non-controversial changes to Missouri’s virtual education law.

Either of these bills could be combined and expanded to form a massive school choice omnibus bill. Ideas that may be included in the omnibus would include eliminating the four-day school week, and gutting Missouri’s professional educator licensure as well the expansion of Missouri’s tax credit voucher program.

Over the past three months, thousands of MSTA members have reached out to legislators, asking them to oppose open enrollment. Please share your opposition to open enrollment and other harmful legislation that will impact students, teachers and schools with members of your community and encourage them to call their State Senator.

Parents Bill of Rights

SB4 (Koenig) The “parents’ bill of rights” that narrowly passed out of the House Elementary and Secondary Education Committee is currently awaiting approval in the House Fiscal Review Committee. During budget discussions, the cost of creating a massive statewide database of curriculum could cost more than $1.3 million. 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 items that must be sent from each district to be included in the DESE database on a report card include: information for all curricula such as the title of each textbook, course outlines, and reading lists at least 30 days before the beginning of each semester in which the material will be taught; school building level and district academic performance information of the percentage of all students scoring at the proficient level or higher on all assessments administered under MAP; the percentage of students in each reportable subgroup including, but not limited to, race, ethnicity, economically disadvantaged, students with disabilities, and English language learners scoring at the proficient level or higher on all assessments under MAP; growth scores in ELA and in math measured against the national normal curve equivalent; and financial data. The bill requires that parents have access to information regarding their child’s records and materials provided to their child including curricula, books, and other instructional materials. Also mostly unchanged was language relating to the teaching of divisive concepts, the bill was amended to be more specific and avoid unintended consequences of language that was broad.  

The bill also includes language from HB1087 (Byrnes) that would create the Missouri Childhood Hero Act. The legislation would prohibit schools from adopting a zero-tolerance disciplinary policy. Language similar to HB192 (E. Lewis) would designate an affirmative statement as a Teacher’s Bill of Rights that relate to professional conduct of other staff as well as safety in classrooms. 


Recruitment and Retention

HB497 (E.Lewis) that started as a bill that modifies the existing “Urban Flight and Rural Needs Scholarship Program” by changing the name to the “Teacher Recruitment and Retention State Scholarship Program” and includes a large number of other bills, including legislation addressing teacher retirement, school safety, other teacher recruitment and retention programs was not voted out of the Senate Education and Workforce Development Committee. The bill remains in limbo in the Senate Committee.

The bill includes provisions from other legislation that was filed this session, including: 

HB496 (E.Lewis) includes MSTA supported PSRS/PEERS provisions in SB75.