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MSTA activates Rapid Response Call to Action

For the first time this session, a call to action was made with the new MSTA Rapid Response program.  MSTA members are encouraged to reach out to their State Senators to let them know they support public education and urge their elected officials to oppose SB525 (Emery), SB649 (Eigel) and SB581 (Cierpiot).  These bills relating to vouchers and charter school expansion are opposed by MSTA based on Adopted Resolutions voted on by MSTA members.

SB525 (Emery) would allow for the expansion and creation of “recovery charter schools” in Kansas City. These schools would educate students in grades nine through 12 who are in recovery from substance use disorder or dependency. Schools created under this legislation would be allowed to open enroll students from any district in Missouri or even students from outside the state. The bill does not require students seeking to attend the charter school to verify that they are suffering from a substance-use disorder or substance dependency.  This bill was brought up on the Senate floor for debate on Wednesday but was placed back on the calendar before a vote was taken.  It could come up for debate again soon.

SB649 (Eigel) is a massive expansion of state government, allowing charter schools to open in any district located in Missouri’s largest counties, or in any city with a population greater than 30,000.  MSTA members and Missouri citizens believe that public education should be accountable to Missouri taxpayers and local control of education is vital to our communities. Charter schools are not governed by elected leaders. Charter school board members are not required to live in the areas where charter schools operate and are not even required to be residents of Missouri but oversee millions of dollars in taxpayer money. Between 1999 and the 2017- 2018 school year, 65 charter schools were established in Missouri. Twenty-five of those charter schools have closed due to academic performance or financial issues. Over $785 million taxpayer dollars have gone to Missouri charter schools that closed their doors.  This legislation expands a current system that is not aligned with the local control of public education that allows all stakeholders to have a voice.  

SB581 (Cierpiot) creates a new $25 million tax credit program.  This program would be allowed to expand to $50 million each year, without oversight or appropriation from the general assembly.  If the state were to again fall short of fully funding education, this voucher program would continue to operate, regardless of Missouri’s budget outlook.  Missouri can’t afford to pull further resources away from public education, especially at a time when the state is working to ensure that Missouri has the workforce necessary to continue to grow the state’s economy. Investments in students’ needs including mental health access, classroom supports, and highly qualified teachers must be a priority for the legislature before creating programs that would defer money away from public education.

These bills remain on the Senate calendar and could come up for debate very soon.   

MSTA members enrolled in the Rapid Response program were the first to receive the call to action via text message.  To receive MSTA Rapid Response alerts to your phone, text “MSTA” to 52886.

Petitions for PSRS Board of Trustees submitted to PSRS

 More than 2,700 signatures have been submitted for the nomination of both Darren Farmer, teacher in Polo R-VII and Dr. Melinda Mosssuperintendent of Joplin Schools to serve on the Public School Retirement System of Missouri Board of Trustees.  The signatures submitted were well beyond the required numbers to appear on the ballot for the open election.  Education professionals from across the state have already shown strong support for the MSTA endorsed candidates.  Mr. Farmer and Dr. Moss’ successful election will ensure that the members of the PSRS/PEERS board will reflect the membership of the system and protect our retirement for the benefit of public education as well as future, current and retired educators.  

The retirement system will still need to verify signatures prior to the release of ballots on April 23.  Dr. Melinda Moss and Darren Farmer are proven leaders that will represent all members of the system. They are the only candidates supported by Missouri’s largest education associations, MSTA, MNEA and MASA, and are committed to continue the work of the PSRS Board of Trustees to protect the retirement system and advocate for public education. 

MSTA Capitol Visits Important Part of Advocacy

MSTA advocates for and empowers public educators so they can teach. MSTA’s mission statement is present on association materials and throughout the MSTA headquarters. MSTA staff work hard to fulfill this mission, but when it comes to advocating at the Missouri State Capital, nothing replaces the importance of members visiting one-on-one with their legislators.

MSTA Region organized Capitol Visits begin with a briefing from MSTA Government Relations lobbyists that includes the latest information regarding bills proceeding through the legislative process as well as up to date information about the state budget. Members have the ability to ask questions and learn more about what MSTA does in the capitol to fulfill MSTA’s mission and advocate for public education. Once the briefing is concluded, members are encouraged to meet with their local officials and discuss both pending legislation, as well as update their legislators on what is happening in the school districts they represent.  Members can also use this time to invite their elected officials to visit their school, speak to their class, or visit a local CTA meeting.    

MSTA Region Capitol Visits are also a great opportunity to connect with other MSTA members and share successes and struggles that members face in their districts.   

Registration is still open for Capitol visits, and members should RSVP online. Members can also contact Suzanne Conner in the MSTA Government Relations office or your Member Services Coordinator.

House votes on Career and Technical Education bill

The House gave first-round approval to HB1868 (Swan).  This bill requires the State Board of Education to develop a statewide plan that would establish the minimum requirements for a Career and Technical Education (CTE) Certificate with the advice of the Career and Technical Advisory Council. The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education would be required to convene work groups for each program and develop and recommend performance standard or course competencies for each program of study.  The work groups must include educators, and individuals from both higher education and business and industry. Under the bill DESE is also required to develop a written model curriculum framework relating to CTE program areas that districts may elect to use.    

The House will need to take a final vote on the bill before it is sent to the Senate to consider.

Voucher Bills heard in both House and Senate Education Committees

Two additional bills had hearings this week that would create tax credit education voucher programs. HB2068 (Fitzwater) was presented in the House Elementary and Secondary Education Committee and SB707 (Koenig) was presented in the Senate Education Committee.

HB2068 is very similar to SB581 (Cierpiot) allowing the State Treasurer to administer the program.  State Treasurer Scott Fitzpatrick testified in favor of the bill.  In his testimony, he stated that the bill would be amended to more closely align to the language in SB581. The bill contains no protections or accountability for students utilizing the program.  Missouri legislators continue to prescribe what a quality education should look like for Missouri students, yet the programs and schools that utilize these deferred tax dollars are not required to provide the same services and programs put into law by the legislature.  Legislation adopted in previous sessions such as professional development requirements for teachers and dyslexia screenings for students would only be required for traditional public schools regardless of tax dollars going to private schools.     

SB707 is substantially similar to HB1733 (Christofanelli) recently voted out of the House Elementary and Secondary Education Committee.  This bill would create Education Assistance Organizations that would run a voucher program funded by tax credits.  These new groups would be allowed to keep millions of taxpayer dollars to administer a program creating a large windfall and greater bureaucracy at the expense of Missouri’s students.

Similar to voucher legislation on the Senate calendar, these bills would use unpopular tax credits to fund the programs in perpetuity.  MSTA testified in opposition to both bills. Missouri continues to struggle to provide education professionals with the funding and support to serve the students of Missouri. Support for mental health programs in schools, teacher salaries and state reimbursement for K-12 transportation would continue to be deferred if these costly programs are put into law.

In addition to the hearing on HB2068, the House Elementary and Secondary Education Committee voted to pass HB1733, another voucher tax credit program out of committee.  The bill passed on the following vote.

Representatives Voting In Favor: Rep. Basye, Bailey, Baker, Christofanelli, Dogan, O’Donnell, Schroer, Stacy.

Representatives Voting Against: Rep. Bangert, Eslinger, Morgan, Proudie, Swan.

New revenue for teacher salaries included in house bill

HB2030 (Houx) creates the “Missouri Video Lottery Control Act.” The bill would regulate video lottery machines that have been spreading across the state but are not regulated by state government.  The state currently receives no tax benefits from these machines that operate similar to other approved forms of gambling. This new source of revenue would be a first step in adding additional money to go toward teacher salaries in Missouri.  The bill outlines that new revenues would be split between K-12 public education and Missouri public higher education.

The bill outlines that a minimum of $20 million of the net proceeds will be distributed by the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education to public school districts to be used solely for teacher compensation and benefits.

MSTA remains committed to finding solutions to Missouri’s teacher recruitment and retention issues. This bill would begin the process of finding additional funds to bring the state in line with national trends regarding teacher salaries.

HB2030 has been voted out of committee and has not yet been placed on the house calendar where it can be brought up for debate. MSTA members are encouraged to contact your State Representative to let them know you support HB2030.  While calling is preferred on this bill, if emailing, make sure you use a personal email account.

Suicide prevention bill presented in committee

HB1820 (Kelley) establishes the “Jason Flatt/Avery Reine Cantor Act,” which states that beginning in the 2021-22 school year, each school district must offer at least two hours of suicide prevention training for all practicing teachers. All teachers, principals, and licensed educators must complete training on suicide prevention. The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education may develop the materials to be used or may offer districts materials developed by a third party. The bill also requires public schools, charter schools, and public institutions of higher education that issue pupil identification cards to have printed on the card specific phone numbers including those for the National Suicide Prevention and the Crisis Text Line. Rep. Kelley in her opening statements on the bill indicated that the mandate for school districts would be removed from the bill and would allow for districts to decide if the professional development is appropriate for their districts.

MSTA testified in support. MSTA resolutions support providing student programs which appropriately support students in the aftermath of student suicide, in suicide prevention, and identification/awareness of the signs of suicide.

Bill Summaries

House

Elementary and Secondary Education

HB1345 (Baker) allow school districts to offer elective social studies courses on the Hebrew Scriptures and the New Testament.

HB1820 (Kelley) relates to suicide prevention education and information. See story for more information. MSTA testified in support.

HB2068 (Fitzwater) establishes the “Show Me a Brighter Future Scholarship Act. MSTA testified in opposition.

Executive Session

HB1483 (Rehder) requires adult students to undergo background checks before attending certain classes in public schools. Voted do pass

HB1733 (Christofanelli) creates the “Missouri Empowerment Scholarship Accounts” voucher program. See story for votes on the bill. Voted do pass.

Special Committee on Career Readiness

HB1774 (Baker) requires the Board for Higher Education to develop an informed student document to include information relating to the institutional grouping, with comparisons to other in-state and out-of-state peer institutions with averages regarding costs, employment, and admissions. The bill also requires that a prospective student or the student’s parent or legal guardian verify that the document has been read prior to application to the institution. The document is also required to be available on the website of the Department of Higher Education and Workforce Development and on the website of each individual institution.

HB1994 (Basye) requires the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education to collect specified information including the most in-demand jobs in the state, starting salary, the education level required for such job, information about the cost of colleges and vocational schools in the state, and student loans. The information will be collected annually by DESE and distributed to every public high school in the state for distribution to students by October 15 each year.

Executive Session

HB2317 (Christofanelli) establishes the “Cronkite New Voices Act”. Voted do pass.

Senate

Education

SB707 (Koenig) establishes the Missouri Empowerment Scholarship Account Program. See story for more information. MSTA testified in opposition.

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