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A letter to DHSS from Missouri Teachers of the Year

The following letter was sent to Missouri DHSS officials on February 10th by the five most recent Missouri Teachers of the Year.

MSTA applauds the leadership of these professional educators and joins them in the call to quickly and safely vaccinate all education staff as quickly as possible. All education staff should have access to the COVID-19 vaccine, if they so choose, in order to keep their schools, families, and communities safe. In January, MSTA executive Director Bruce Moe sent a letter to the Director of the Department of Health & Senior Services Dr. Williams, Governor Mike Parson, and Commissioner Dr. Vandeven to advocate expediting the delivery of vaccines to Missouri education staff. MSTA continues to stress the importance of safe and healthy schools for all Missouri communities to maximize student success.

Teacher Vaccination Stories

https://www.news-leader.com/story/news/education/2021/02/16/missouri-mo-teachers-want-covid-19-vaccine-now-state-coronavirus/6758068002/  
 
https://www.columbiamissourian.com/news/covid19/local-teachers-unions-respond-as-next-vaccination-group-expected-to-start-in-april/article_3dacd414-e7d1-5f1a-9419-5dd35b1022e3.html  
 
https://krcgtv.com/news/local/missouri-teachers-association-continues-to-advocate-for-covid-19-vaccination-for-educators  
 
https://www.kansascity.com/news/local/education/article249130715.html  
 
https://abc17news.com/news/coronavirus/2021/02/18/missouri-teachers-continue-waiting-for-coronavirus-vaccine-while-28-other-states-move-forward/ 

Back door charter school expansion bill placed on House calendar

HB942 (Haffner) was recently voted out of the House Elementary and Secondary Education Committee and placed on the House calendar where it could soon come up for debate. The legislation would arbitrarily classify school districts in the state. Currently the State Board of Education establishes an accountability system for schools. HB942 (Haffner) would dramatically change the system the State Board of Education can use when establishing standards for schools, expanding the emphasis placed on statewide testing.

Under current law, charter schools may open in unaccredited and provisionally accredited school districts. The bill would require that 25 percent of all schools or attendance centers be classified as provisionally or unaccredited even if they are meeting standards for student achievement, opening an unknown set of 130 school districts around the state to charter school expansion.  

By placing these requirements into state law, any modifications to these standards would have to be passed by the General Assembly and signed by the governor in order to take effect. Currently, the State Board of Education has the authority to modify the accreditation system.

MSTA is opposed to this bill because it takes decisions on Missouri’s accreditation system out of the control of the State Board of Education. The standards established in the bill are not well thought out and will lead to classifications of schools that are arbitrary and not accurate. This legislation would allow a statewide expansion of charter schools that are governed by board members that are not required to live in the areas where charter schools operate and are not even required to be residents of Missouri. These schools are not governed by elected leaders and are allowed to oversee and handle millions of taxpayer dollars. This legislation could open the door to a further expansion of a system that is not aligned with the local control of public education that allows all stakeholders to have a voice.  

Bills allowing open enrollment voted out of House Education Committee

This week, two bills that establish open enrollment programs were voted do pass out of the House Committee on Elementary and Secondary Education. HB303 (Wiemann) and HB543 (Pollitt) would both allow students to attend school in any nonresident district. The nonresident district is not required to add teachers, staff, or classrooms to accommodate transfer applicants and the school may establish standards for transfer applications and post the information on the school website and in the student handbook.

While changes were made to the bills in committee, these bills would ultimately lead to school consolidation, as seen in other states like Iowa. Financially stressed schools across the state could see a loss of revenue that would affect all remaining students in the district, affecting rural and suburban communities. The loss of student population in these districts could also result in the reduction of staff as well as other extracurricular programs.  

The bills outline the process for students to transfer from district to district and place some limitations on how often students may transfer. Both bills allow districts to opt out of accepting students, but allow resident students to leave the district if there is a local district that would accept their enrollment. Any student that applies for a transfer may only accept one transfer per school year, although the student may return to their resident district and must complete a full year before applying for another transfer. Students may complete all remaining school years in their nonresident district and any sibling may enroll if the district has the capacity as provided by the bill. Enabling districts to recruit students brings many concerns, posing questions about possible expenditures that would remove resources from classroom expenditures. HB543 (Pollitt) would create a $60 million fund to offset the additional costs to districts due to the open enrollment program. This new fund has no identified revenue source to ensure money is appropriated or that the fund would remain solvent to support Missouri student success.

MSTA remains opposed to open enrollment. The MSTA Adopted Resolutions oppose legislative actions involving the concept of inter-district choice and support each school district developing a written policy for transfer and assignment of students within a district and to any other school district. Many districts currently have locally approved agreements that address students’ needs while maintaining the ability to educate all students in the community in which they live.

Missouri’s strong public schools with local control of public education have been a bedrock of strong communities across the state for over a century. The education of all students must be a priority for legislators. The potential impact of this legislation could result in unnecessary school consolidation that would hurt students, families and communities.

MSTA Rapid Response program still active

If you haven’t taken action to email your State Representative, there is still time. The creation of a voucher program to use public funds for private education continues to remain a focus of education legislation this session. HB349 (Christofanelli) was voted do pass out of the House Elementary and Secondary Education Committee. MSTA has activated Rapid Response for members to quickly contact legislators in the House of Representatives. Legislation could be placed on the House calendar to be brought up for debate soon. The bill contains many provisions similar to what is awaiting debate in the Senate on SB55 (O’Laughlin). Email your representative and tell them you oppose the creation of a tax credit voucher system.

Minor changes to work after retirement heard in committee

This week the House Pensions Committee heard two proposals to make minor changes to a couple of different work-after-retirement provisions.

HB811 (R. Black) would change the amount of earnings that a retiree of the Public School Retirement System (PSRS) could make when working in a Public Education Employee Retirement System (PEERS) position.

Currently, any teacher retired from the PSRS can be employed in a position covered under the PEERS without stopping their retirement benefit. Such teacher may earn up to 60 percent of the minimum teacher’s salary as set forth by law and will not contribute to the retirement system or earn creditable service. This bill will allow such teacher to earn up to the annual earnings limit applicable to a Social Security recipient which is currently $18,960.

The second proposal extends the length of time that someone can work under “critical shortage” from two years to four years. HB812 (R. Black) is designed to help districts find and keep staff in hard to fill positions. Currently, a PSRS retiree can go back to work full time for a district for up to two years while still receiving their retirement benefit if the district determines that there is a critical shortage of qualified applicants for a position. The district must meet certain standards before identifying a position as having a critical shortage.

Bill Summaries

House

Elementary and Secondary Education
HB151 (Shields) beginning July 1, 2022, would allow a school district that enters into an agreement with another district to share a superintendent to receive an additional $30,000 per year in state aid for up to five years. The bill directs districts to spend the additional compensation and half of the savings from sharing a superintendent on teacher salaries or counseling services.

HB306 (Griesheimer) requires school districts and charter schools to establish a state-approved gifted program if 3 percent or more of the students are determined to be gifted by July 1, 2023. By July 1, 2023, districts and charter schools with an average daily attendance of more than 350 students are required to have a teacher certificated to teach gifted education. In districts with an average daily attendance of 350 or less, any teacher providing gifted instruction is not required to be certified to teach gifted education but must participate in six hours per year of professional development regarding gifted services.

HB754 (Christofanelli) removes district oversight for students enrolled in the Missouri Course Access and Virtual School Program. The bill would require the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education to pay 100 percent of its average per-pupil expenditure for each full-time equivalent student. Currently, districts have the ability to negotiate costs for online learning through the program. Online providers would be allowed to be classified as attendance centers under the bill and would monitor full-time students progress and success and report test scores to student’s parents or guardians and DESE. The bill grants DESE the authority to terminate or alter the course offering for full-time equivalent students. The bill specifies that, any school district or charter school that fails to notify parents of his or her child’s right to participate in the program shall be subject to civil penalties in an amount equal to $100 for each day such school district or charter school is in violation of this requirement, including reasonable attorney’s fees. MSTA testified in opposition.

Executive Session
HB303 (Wiemann) See earlier story. Voted do pass with committee substitute.

HB543 (Pollitt) allows for open enrollment. See earlier story. Voted do pass with committee substitute.

HB387 (Bailey) defines “restraint” and “seclusion” and requires school districts, charter schools, or publicly contracted private providers to include in policy a prohibition on the use of restraint and seclusion, including “prone restraint for any purpose other than situations or conditions in which there is imminent danger of physical harm to self or others. Any incident requiring restraint or seclusion must be monitored by school personnel with written observation. The bill requires that before July 1, 2022, each school district, and charter school, or publicly contracted private providers policy must include when to remove a child from restraint, seclusion, or isolation, requirement for annual mandatory training, reporting requirements for any occurrence of restraint, seclusion or isolation as outlined in the bill, including the reporting requirements for parental notification and providing a copy of each report to the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. There is also a requirement for notification for each occurrence of a restraint, seclusion, or isolation incident to parents or guardians within one hour after the end of school on the day the incident occurs. The bill also contains protections for individuals that report or provide information about violations of policy under this section. Voted do pass.

Pensions
HB811 (R. Black) see earlier story.
HB812 (R. Black) see earlier story.

2021 Virtual Capitol Visit Schedule - Register here

RMSTA     Attend w/ region      Various
JEFCO     Tue/Feb 23               6:00 pm     
SC            Wed/Feb 24             5:30pm     
St JOE      Mon/Mar 1               4:30 pm     
NW           Mon/Mar 1               5:30 pm     
SE            Mon/Mar 8               4:30 pm
GKC         Tue/Mar 9                5:30 pm
CEN         Tue/Mar 30              5:15 pm
SW           Tue/Mar 30              5:30 pm
NE            Wed/Apr 7               5:30 pm