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Senate committee considers changes to school start date

A bill to change when schools can start a school year was heard this week by a Senate Committee. The bill has already passed the house.

HB161 & 401 (Knight) was heard before the Senate Education Committee.  The bill would prohibit school districts from setting a start date more than 14 calendar days before Labor Day. If approved this year, the legislation would take effect for the 2020-21 school year.

Current state law requires school districts to start up to 10 days before Labor Day, but districts are allowed to start earlier if they hold a public hearing and the school board takes a vote. Missouri is one of 16 states that places restrictions on school start dates.

Many members of the committee stressed the negative effect that schools starting early in August has on the tourism business in Missouri, as well as limiting the ability of students to exhibit livestock at the Missouri State Fair.

MSTA testified in opposition to this legislation. Local school boards, with input from staff and community, are best to decide when it is appropriate to begin a school year.

Work after retirement change passed by legislature

HB77 (R.Black) has been Truly Agreed and Finally Passed.  The bill is now in the hands of the governor.  Since the bill was passed while the legislature is in session, the governor has 15 days to act on the bill or it will become law.

Currently, any teacher retired from the Public School Retirement System of Missouri (PSRS) may be employed in a position covered under the Public Education Employee Retirement System (PEERS) without stopping their retirement benefit. Teachers may earn up to 60% of the minimum teacher’s salary, and will not contribute to the retirement system or earn creditable service. The employer’s contribution rate will be paid by the hiring employer. If a retiree is employed in excess of these limitations, they will not be eligible to receive their retirement allowance for any month they are employed beyond the limit. This bill excludes from this provision any person retired and currently receiving a retirement allowance employed by a public community college.

Since the bill has an emergency clause, it will become law immediately upon approval of or inaction of the governor after 15 days.

Bill to change school board elections advances in the House

The House Committee on Rules – Administrative Oversight gave approval to HCB6 (Roeber) that would change school board elections and alter the restrictions on public employees.

Beginning in 2022, this bill requires school board elections to be held during the November general election. For school boards not holding an initial election the terms will be staggered and four years in length.  Any member whose term ends in 2021 or any other odd-numbered year will serve until the election in the following even-numbered year.

The bill also alters the limitations on public employees, including teachers, when it comes to advocating issues that affect their profession. The bill creates a new cause of action that can be brought by any citizen if they believe any public resources were used. If the court decides a teacher used public resources or property paid for with public funds, the penalty for the first offense would not result in a civil penalty, other than the payment of the plaintiff’s costs and attorney fees.  Any subsequent violations would result in a $1,000 fine.  If a district knows, or should have known of a violation, they would also be liable.

MSTA has always supported the current law that states that public money should not be used when advocating for candidates, ballot measures or bills before the legislature.

The bill will now move forward and may be debated by the entire House.

Bill changing elections for any tax increase given initial approval by the House

HJR19 (Christofanelli) would change the Missouri Constitution to require that elections held to increase state, county, municipal, or political subdivision taxes or fees must be held during a general election. The Joint Resolution will need one more vote by the House before it is sent to the Senate for its consideration.

Since the legislation is a Joint Resolution that would amend the constitution, if the General Assembly approves it, it would be submitted to the voters of the state to approve or reject in the November 2020 election unless the governor calls a special election.

MSTA is opposed to changing the number of annual school election dates. This resolution limits a district’s ability to reach out to voters in a timely manner to address the needs of a school district. With the increased political activity associated with other campaigns, it’s more difficult to educate voters on ballot measures during a general election.

Education bills passed by the House

HB112 (Sommer) requires school districts to establish a state-approved gifted program if 3% or more of the students are determined to be gifted. Districts with average daily attendance of 350 or fewer students are not required to have a teacher certificated to teach gifted education, but any teacher providing gifted instruction without a gifted-teaching certificate must participate in six hours per year of professional development regarding gifted services.

HB606 (Basye) modifies criminal background checks of school bus drivers to include those drivers employed by municipalities or any other entity under contract with a school district. The bill authorizes school boards to contract with municipalities to transport high school children for a primary bus route. The contract shall require the presence of an adult supervisor approved by the school board on any municipal vehicle transporting school children. While transporting school children, municipal vehicles shall include seating designated solely for school children. Additional transportation services may be contracted, as outlined in the bill, in any urban district containing the greater part of the population of a city which has more than 300,000 inhabitants; this section currently applies to Kansas City. Additionally, the bill prohibits districts from the use of self-driving or autonomous school buses for the transportation of students.

HB745 (Ruth) requires courts to notify school administrators of any change in a child’s custody, where a child is under 18 years of age, within one business day of the change.  The bill also requires the school to acknowledge the change notification within one business day. The notification will become part of the court order and specifies methods for transmission of the notice for certain types of custody changes.

Bill Summaries

House

Elementary and Secondary Education

HB1212 (Stacy) would modify the section of law known as Bryce’s Law by changing responsibility of the program from the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) to the office of the State Treasurer. The bill also indefinitely extends the program that is set to expire in December.

HB1016 (Shawan) addresses sex offenders being within 500 feet of schools. Currently, certain offenders may be present within 500 feet of certain school property if they have permission from the school’s superintendent or the school board. The bill adds that any offender must also receive permission from the local law enforcement agency.

HB1023 (Mackey) defines restraint and seclusion and requires school districts to include in policy a prohibition on the use of restraint or seclusion for any purpose other than the health and safety of students, teachers, and staff members. The bill requires that before July 1, 2020 each school district policy must include reporting requirements for any occurrence of restraint or seclusion. The reporting requirements include parental notification, right to review a report, file a complaint of dissatisfaction, and the ability to appeal report findings as detailed in bill. The bill also requires the board of education for the school district to hold hearings on filed complaints, and for DESE, upon appeal, to issue a report substantiating a parental claim of dissatisfaction or finding a claim unsubstantiated.

Executive Session

HB976 (Swan) modifies who may apply to DESE for a Visiting Scholars Certificate by allowing applicants with a Masters or Doctoral Degree the opportunity if a minimum of 18 graduate level hours are in the subject being taught. Voted do pass.

HCS/HB957 (Pike) currently DESE will reimburse school districts for the costs of special education for high-needs children with an Individualized Education Program (IEP) exceeding three times the current expenditure per average daily attendance as calculated on the district annual secretary of the board report for the year in which the expenditures are claimed. This bill states that any money reimbursed to a school district under current law is excluded from such calculation. This bill specifies that a school district shall submit the cost of serving any high-needs student with an IEP to DESE.

Voted do pass with committee substitute.

HCS/HB836 (Rehder) requires criminal background checks to be conducted on any person who is 18 years of age or older who is not counted by the district for purposes of average daily attendance and requests enrollment in a course that takes place on school property during regular school hours. The background check shall be conducted before the person enrolls in any such course. Voted do pass with committee substitute.

Senate

Education

HB161 (Knight) prohibits local school districts from setting an opening date for the school term that is more than 14 calendar days prior to the first Monday in September. See earlier story.

HB169 (Gannon) establishes the Internet and Social Media Awareness Program to increase awareness of appropriate online behavior and skills among students in public schools. In coordination with the Career and Technical Education Advisory Council, materials will be developed and evaluated by the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. Beginning in school year 2020-2021, each public school shall provide instruction in 4th grade, and an optional course in 8th grade on how to navigate online courses and engage in appropriate online behavior.

SB461 (O’Laughlin) under current law, petitions to change the boundaries between school districts are required to be signed by 10% of the voters who voted for school board members in the last annual school election in each district that would be affected by the change. The bill would raise the petition signature requirement to 30% of the voters who voted for school board members in the last annual school election. MSTA testified in support.