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Senate charter school expansion bill advances

A senate bill that would allow charter schools to expand to any district in the state over the objections of local school boards was voted out of the Senate General Laws Committee.  SB292 (Eigel) was approved by the committee with minor modifications.  This bill was also placed on the Senate calendar and could be brought up for debate soon.  MSTA remains opposed to SB292, as it is in conflict with MSTA Adopted Resolutions as voted on by MSTA members.

Charter schools would be permitted in counties with a charter form of government, cities with a population greater than 30,000 or any district over the objections of the locally elected school board.

A sponsor may submit a proposed charter school plan to a local school board for approval. The local district may agree to allow the charter school to open, but if rejected, the applicant may appeal to the Missouri Charter Public School Commission.  This commission was established in state law with the sole purpose of sponsoring charter schools. The Missouri Charter Public School Commission can approve the charter and act as the sponsor if “it finds it more likely than not there is community support for the charter school”.

  Data from current charter schools has shown mixed results relating to student performance but concerns regarding enrollment practices and student placement raise a warning for future expansion. According to data reported to the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, the statewide average enrollment of special needs students for traditional schools is 13.3 percent, yet many high performing charter schools serve a much lower population.  Another concerning aspect of some successful charter schools regarding their enrollment practices is the lack of backfilling their student populations.  Many charter schools utilize a lottery to fill classes, but data shows that often times as cohorts advance grade levels, students that leave charter schools are not replaced by new students.

  More than one-third of the charter schools that have opened in Missouri have closed their doors.  These public schools have closed for a variety of reasons, including poor academic performance and gross financial mismanagement.  The students in these schools have seen increased mobility, and Missouri tax dollars have been wasted. Over $620 million has been spent on failed charter schools in Missouri.

  MSTA Adopted Resolutions are clear regarding charter schools.  MSTA supports the establishment of public charter schools, provided the charters are granted by the local school board within an existing accredited Missouri public school district. MSTA further supports requiring all members of a public charter school board to be residents of the district in which the charter school serves. Currently, there are no residency requirements for charter school board members.  They are not even required to be residents of the state of Missouri.

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

House Education Committee approves tax credit voucher program

The House bill establishing a tax credit voucher, HB478 (Christofanelli) was narrowly voted out of the House Elementary and Secondary Education Committee.  The bill creates a tax credit program that would be used to fund a new $50 million program.  The legislation would allow education assistance organizations to create Empowerment Scholarship Accounts for students living in counties with a charter form of government and those living in cities with a population greater than 30,000 population.  The Empowerment Scholarship Accounts could be used to pay for educational services, including tutoring, education therapies and tuition. To be eligible for the program, a qualified student must not be enrolled in the school district or charter school of residence and the student must release the district from all obligations to educating the student while they are enrolled in the program.

The State Treasurer is responsible for administering the program and collecting data from the students that utilize the scholarship accounts.  The bill prohibits any governmental agency from exercising control or supervision over any qualified school in which a student uses the Empowerment Scholarship Account.

MSTA is opposed to legislation that would give tax credits for scholarships, tuition or vouchers to private schools or voucher plans that would divert public funds to pay for private school tuition.

House Education Appropriations Committee makes recommendations

Minor changes were made to the education budget by the House Education Appropriations Committee.

The governor recommended an additional $61 million to fully fund the foundation formula, and the committee agreed with that recommendation. The committee is also making a recommendation for an additional $10 million for student transportation costs.

The Education Appropriations Committee can move money between the budget for the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education and the Department of Higher Education.  In the governor’s original budget proposal there was $22 million of new money for a new Fast Track Scholarship program.  Since the budget was first proposed, the amount needed to fund the Fast Track Program has dropped to between $17 and $18 million.  This allowed the committee members to use this money for other programs within the two department budgets.

Increase to the budget include:

  • $150,000 for the Missouri Scholars Academy
  • $150,000 for a K-3 reading assessment
  • $418,224 for DESE finance payment for a computer system upgrade
  • $400,000 for early learning quality assurance report
  • $500,000 for the public placement fund

These recommendations will now go to the full Budget Committee where further changes could be made before the full budget is debated by the House.

Special Committee on Student Accountability approves bills

This week the House Special Committee on Student Accountability gave approval to two bills.

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. By July 1, 2018, the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) must convene a work group to develop academic performance standards for this course and before January 1, 2020 have developed written curriculum frameworks for school districts to implement.

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, a required course in 8th grade, and an elective course in high school on how to navigate online courses and appropriate online behavior.

The committee delayed action on the following bills.  These bills are expected to be acted on by the committee at their next meeting.

HB456 (Neely) creates a STEM diploma endorsement for high school students.

HB572 (Dinkins) requires schools to include 10 hours of hunter safety instruction as a required part of 6th, 7th, or 8th grade physical education courses, beginning in school year 2020-21. The bill requires high schools to offer at least one elective physical education course that includes hunter safety instruction. A student shall not be required to participate in hunter safety instruction if the student has any sincerely held religious or emotional belief contrary to such instruction.

HCR13 (Trent) encourages schools to offer to students elective courses on the Hebrew Scriptures, the Old Testament of the Bible or the New Testament of the Bible and their influence. The resolution further suggests that all world literature courses should include three weeks on wisdom literature from the Bible.

Bill Summaries

House Committees

Downsizing State Government

HB343 (Baringer) allows public school students to possess and apply topical sunscreen products, if supplied by the student or his or her parent or guardian, on school property or at a school-related event or activity. A public school shall not require a prescription or note from a health care professional in order for a student to possess or apply any sunscreen approved by the Food and Drug Administration for over-the-counter use.

Elementary and Secondary Education

HB739 (Miller) requires full disclosure between school districts about a former employee when requested, specifically regarding any confirmed violation of a board policy related to abusive behavior toward a student.  Before offering employment, any school must contact the district or charter school that previously employed the prospective employee. The bill also increases the training hours for initial school board members from 16 to 18 hours and 30 minutes and requires that the training include two hours and 30 minutes of sexual harassment training. Returning school board members must take at least one hour of refresher training annually.  The bill requires schools provide age appropriate sexual harassment training to students in grades six and up. The training will be developed by the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.

HB763 (Remole) specifies private schools shall not be required to increase their minimum wage to $8.60 or the applicable federal rate on January 1, 2019 or increase it annually as required by current law.

HB604 (Henderson) establishes the School Turnaround Act. DESE shall use an outcome based measure to set criteria for the designation of schools in need of intervention and specifies a time line for the initial remedial year.  Before August 30, 2020, the department must identify two or more approved independent school turnaround experts of which schools in need of intervention may partner. The bill outlines that the department shall award contracts to independent school turnaround experts and that governing boards of schools not be required to pay independent school turnaround experts. The bill also establishes the School Turnaround Fund for the payment of contracts.  The bill specifies that the department must review school turnaround plans within 30 days of submission. Criteria for approval is specified in the bill as well as an appeal process. The bill also establishes the School Intervention Fund, to fund interventions identified in approved school turnaround plans. The bill specifies that a school in need of intervention that does not meet the exit criteria within three school years may petition the department for an extension to continue school improvement efforts for up to two years. The bill requires that DESE must report on the implementation of the program before November 30, 2021, to Joint Committee on Education.

Executive Session

HB478 (Christofanelli) establishes Missouri Empowerment Scholarship accounts. Voted do pass. (See story.)


SB17 (Romine) Under current law, any person retired from the Public School Retirement System of Missouri (PSRS) may be employed by an employer included in the retirement system in a position that does not normally require a Missouri teacher certification. The PSRS retiree may earn up to 50 percent of the statutory minimum teacher salary without forfeiting their retirement allowance, but any month the retiree exceeds the limit, they are not eligible to receive their retirement allowance for that month. This bill exempts any person retired and currently receiving a retirement allowance from PSRS employed by a public community college from such provisions of law.

Executive Session

HB723 (Pike) allows a retired member of the Public School or Public Education Employees Retirement System (PSRS/PEERS) who has 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 or their spouse became divorced prior to September 1, 2017 or if they get a modified dissolution decree that provides for sole retention by the retired person of all rights in the retirement allowance after September 1, 2017. Voted do pass.

Special Committee on Career Readiness

HB221 (Kelley) expands the A+ program to students earning college credit in high school. Eligible high school students can receive A+ reimbursement for the cost of tuition, books, and fees for any dual-credit or dual-enrollment course offered in association with an institution of higher education. The bill also changes the eligibility requirement for the A+ program by reducing the requirement that a student attend high school in Missouri from three years to two years.

Executive Session

HB592 (Trent) establishes procedures governing the use and access to student data by third parties. Any time a school provides access to student data to a contractor, the contractor must agree to a written contract with the school governing the contractor’s access and use of student data. A contractor must maintain security practices designed to protect student data. The school is required to notify students and parents whose data is affected by the contract. The bill also requires the operators of school websites that collect, maintain, or use student data to maintain security practices designed to protect student data. Operators are prohibited from keeping or using student data except for authorized purposes. The bill also requires notification of the school and affected students and parents if security breaches cause the unauthorized disclosure of student data. A task force is established to study issues relating to student data privacy. The task force must submit a report to the Joint Committee on Education before January 31, 2020. Voted do pass.

HCR18 (Spencer) a concurrent resolution that urges all public schools in Missouri school districts to take the necessary steps to institute the Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (JROTC) courses in their schools. Voted do pass.


Rules, Joint Rules, Resolutions and Ethics

SCR13 (Emery) This concurrent resolution encourages public high schools to offer an elective course to high school students regarding the Bible and require all world literature courses to include information on wisdom literature from the Bible. The resolution declares that the purpose of such courses is to teach students the biblical content, characters, and narratives of the Bible that are prerequisites to understanding contemporary society and culture. The resolution urges the offering of such courses if the courses do not endorse or favor any particular religion, are taught by teachers selected without inquiry into religious beliefs or lack thereof, allow students to choose their preferred translation of the Bible, and award commensurate course credits.

The resolution urges the offering of such courses only if school districts make teacher training available regarding best practices for teaching the Bible in a public school setting. The resolution declares that no state entity, school district, or local educational agency should prevent the teaching of the Bible if the courses meet guidelines consistent with the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.