By Kara Potter
An ice storm in 2009 left Tina Brown’s house without electricity for 18 days and left her school district facing make-up days long into the summer. The Kennett 39 district appealed to the state to forgive some of the make-up days, but middle school teacher Brown says it bothered her that weather could wreak such havoc on a district’s calendar.
“I was always afraid that we would have another one of those snow seasons or whatever that was going to cause us a problem,” Brown said. “One year our district wasn’t really hit by much ice or snow, but some of the neighboring districts are in the hills, and they had to miss a lot of days. How unfair that mother nature has caused them problems, and now their staff was going to have to go into the summer.”
Brown is friends with educators in Arkansas and Indiana, both states that have implemented forms of alternative methods of instruction, or digital snow days. She decided to see if that was something that could be implemented in Missouri.
She took the idea to the Southeast Region fall meeting, where it was well received.
“They told me that if I could provide some background information, this was a very viable proposition,” Brown said. “I contacted my friends in Arkansas and Indiana, and they gave me information on how it was working in their states. We were able to pull enough information from those existing programs to formulate the proposal.”
Brown submitted the resolution at the Southeast Region open hearing, where it was unanimously supported. From there, the resolution was brought before the Assembly of Delegates at the 2018 MSTA State Convention. The resolution passed there and was added to MSTA’s legislative priorities.
Brown stayed in communication with the MSTA government relations team, who worked with Rep. Becky Ruth and Rep. Ann Kelly to get the language of the proposal just right.
From there, the proposal was submitted as a bill in the legislature. MSTA worked to move the bill through the legislature, and testified in favor of the bill in hearings.
“It was kind of a long process,” Brown said. “I kind of wondered if it got lost in the shuffle of all the bills that were being presented in the legislature.”
Eventually, the bill was attached to an education omnibus bill that was passed and signed into law. The alternative methods of instruction option will go into effect in the 2020-21 school year.
“I sometimes feel like our education legislation is directed by people who’ve never been in a classroom,” Brown said. “I felt like that was a victory in itself, that this was something that was teacher-directed, and they listened to us and so they saw what we needed and heard us and actually put it in place.”
Brown encourages teachers who have ideas on ways to improve education in the state to get involved with their local CTAs and to attend their MSTA region meetings to help get the ball rolling.
“I think it’s important when you get an idea and you’re passionate about it to just make sure that you spread the word, get some followers and go for it.”
Brown is retiring at the end of this year. While she won’t be able to benefit from the legislation she helped pass, she’s glad she’ll be passing it along to other educators.
“It’s my little last reminder that I was here, I guess.”