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Foundation formula to be fully funded

The Senate gave approval to HB2 (Smith) this week that included a $61 million increase for the state foundation formula that funds K-12 schools. The House version of the budget also includes this increase, meaning that no other compromise will be needed on funding for the formula.

The Senate also agreed with the House on increases for Parents as Teachers ($3 million), K-3 reading assessment ($400,000), school safety training grants ($300,000) and pre-school quality assurance ($319,000).

The biggest difference that the Senate made to the education budget was increasing the funding for school transportation costs. The House has passed a $5 million increase while the Senate approved a $10 million increase. The difference between the two versions of the budget will be worked out in a conference committee made up of members of both the House and Senate. A conference committee may negotiate any amount between the two positions but may not go above or below the approved amounts.

Other areas where the two versions of the budget differed on funding include dyslexia training ($150,00 increase), computer science professional development ($150,000 increase), and funding for first-time takers of the HiSET ($200,000 increase). 

The Senate proposal includes reducing five full-time positions at DESE in the Division of Learning Services along with the corresponding $215,000 in salaries. The Senate committee also eliminates the funding ($200,000) for the “My Scholars App” that is designed to help students in St. Louis Public Schools as well as a $150,000 reduction in the Scholar and Fine Arts Academies.

The differences between the two versions of the budget will be worked out in a conference committee prior to the bills needing final approval before May 10. 

State revenue collections for the current state budget have rebounded.  As of close of business April 24, tax receipts were $153 million ahead of this time last year, or + 2%.

Charter school expansion attached to House bill in committee

SCS/HB485 (Dogan) was recently placed on the Senate calendar where it could soon come up for debate. The bill was passed by the House but significantly modified in the Senate Government Reform Committee. 

The legislation passed the House as a two-page bill that would require the State Board of Education to modify accreditation standards for special school districts to reflect the educational needs of students served by such districts and appropriately measure the performance of students.  The Senate committee substitute is now over 50 pages and incorporates a wide number of issues including charter school expansion and language from past student transfer bills. 

Under the bill, charter schools would be allowed to expand to school districts located within a county with a charter form of government with a student population over 3,000, or in an urban school district. According to the fiscal note on the bill, this could allow charter schools to expand to over 30 school districts across the state, including districts in Jackson, Jefferson, St. Louis and St. Charles counties as well as the Columbia, Springfield and St. Joseph school districts without input or oversight of locally elected school boards.  The bill also outlines underperforming charter schools, charter school renewals and prohibits St. Louis City from restricting property sold by the city from being used by a charter school.

There are many sections of the bill with language from past bills related to student transfers from unaccredited districts or schools with low APR scores, including allowing students to transfer within districts or to a charter school in the same or adjoining county. The bill also outlines tuition and transportation costs for students transferring from an unaccredited school district.

Other language that had been filed as stand-alone bills and was included relates to background checks for school volunteers and allowing snow day forgiveness for the current school year. The bill would allow the A+ schools program to be utilized by students in high school enrolled in dual credit or dual-enrollment programs.

A new parental notification would occur in any district that becomes unaccredited, or when a school in the district receives two or more consecutive annual performance scores consistent with a classification of unaccredited.

The bill is currently on the Senate calendar where it could be brought up for debate. If approved, it would be sent back to the House for approval, or to a conference committee to negotiate the differences between the chambers’ versions of the bill.

MSTA opposes charter school expansion without local community input, oversight and authorization by locally elected school boards.

House approves changes to superintendent contracts

The House gave approval to HCB7 (Roeber) that requires every superintendent and assistant superintendent to enter into a written employment contract with a school district before beginning employment.

The contract shall expressly state the terms and conditions of employment and incorporate all provisions relating to compensation and benefits to be paid to or on behalf of the superintendent or assistant superintendent.  Any modification to the contract shall be in writing and approved by a majority vote of the board members.

The bill limits a severance package that could be offered in a case of termination for cause to the lesser of the equivalent of one year’s compensation due under the contract, including benefits; or the total of all compensation due under the contract, including benefits, for the remainder of the term of the contract. The bill now moves to the Senate.

Senate committee approves change to school start date

A bill that limits when locally elected school boards can start the school year was approved by the Senate Education Committee.

SCS/HB161 & 401 (Knight) 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. The bill was amended to add language that would exempt school districts from the required number of make-up days due to inclement weather for the current school year.

Current state law requires school districts to start 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 place restrictions on school start dates. This bill would eliminate local control of schools to create a school calendar that focuses on what students, families and communities need.

MSTA remains opposed to this legislation. Local school boards, with input from staff and  the community are best to decide when it is appropriate to begin a school year to meet the needs of students.

PSRS/PEERS divorce pop-up bill continues to advance

HB(723) Pike was presented to the Senate Health and Pensions Committee. The bill would allow Public School and Education Employee Retirement Systems of Missouri (PSRS/PEERS) retirees who have elected a reduced retirement allowance to provide for survivor benefits for his or her spouse to have the retirement allowance increased to the single life annuity amount with no survivor benefits if the member and his or her spouse became divorced prior to Sept. 1, 2017.

In order for a retiree to change their allowance, they must have a dissolution decree that provides for sole retention by the retiree of all rights in the retirement allowance and obtain an amended or modified dissolution decree after Sept. 1, 2017 that allows for the immediate removal of the former spouse, or the former spouse consents in writing to their immediate removal as beneficiary and disclaims all rights to future benefits to the satisfaction of the retirement system board of trustees.

The bill was amended in the House to also include language regarding the Missouri Local Government Employee’s Retirement System. This change to the PSRS/PEERS system would be consistent with the current ability of retires that have divorced after Sept. 1, 2017 to pop-up to a single life annuity with an approved dissolution decree.

An actuarial analysis of the PSRS/PEERS change indicated that the change would not present a cost or benefit to the retirement system.  This quality of life change would benefit those members that would like to change their retirement allowance due to a divorce. MSTA testified in support.

Give feedback to the Missouri School Safety Task Force

In March, Gov. Mike Parson signed an executive order establishing the Missouri School Safety Task Force. The purpose of the task force will be to evaluate best practices and identify potential areas of improvement regarding school safety.

The task force is holding public meetings across the state, but is also accepting comments online at mosba.org/safety-task-force.

The task force will issue a report by July 31, 2019 and will be available to every school and school district before the start of the 2019-2020 school year.

Public Hearing schedule

May 2 – Kansas City

Mid-America Regional Council of Governments

600 Broadway Blvd Suite 200

Kansas City, MO 64105

Start Time: 3:30 PM

May 9 – Poplar Bluff

Start Time: 3:30 PM

May 16 – Jefferson City

Truman State Office Building, Room 500

301 West High St.

Jefferson City, MO 65101

Start Time: 1:30 PM

Bill Summaries

House

Elementary and Secondary Education

SB218 (Hoskins) requires the DESE to establish two voluntary elementary school pilot programs. The first pilot would create a program for mental and emotional health education. Sixteen schools would be selected to establish instruction on how to set and achieve positive goals, utilize coping strategies to handle stress, and an increased emphasis on protective factors, such as problem-solving skills, social support and social connectedness through positive relationships and teamwork. The second program would create a pilot for agricultural education in elementary schools. Both programs would last three years and will deliver an evaluation of the programs to the legislature. Both pilot programs would begin in the 2020-2021 school year.

Executive Session

HCS/SB206 (Arthur) currently, any school district authorizing the construction of facilities that may cost more than $15,000 shall advertise in a newspaper and comply with certain bidding requirements. This act increases that amount to $25,000. Language was also added to the bill on student data privacy, energy savings contracts, and restrictions on bids for specific products. Voted do pass with committee substitute.

Senate

Health and Pensions

HB723(Pike) modifies provisions relating to public employee retirement benefits. See earlier story.

Education

Executive session

SCS/HB604 (Henderson) establishes the school turnaround act and creates a school turnaround fund. Voted do pass with substitute.

SCS/HB161 (Knight) changes the school start date and allows for snow day forgiveness.  Voted do pass. See earlier story.

HB267 (Baker) allows a school district to offer an elective social studies unit on the Hebrew Scriptures, the Old Testament of the Bible, or the New Testament of the Bible. The course will include the contents, history, literary style and structure, and influences on society. No requirement shall be made by the district on the text translation students must use. This bill requires that any course offered must follow applicable laws maintaining religious neutrality, and shall not endorse, favor, promote, or show hostility to any particular religion, nonreligious faith or religious perspective. Voted do pass.

Visit Bunker Hill in 2019