MSTA Action – Feb. 28, 2020 from MSTA on Vimeo.

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House Subcommittee on Education Appropriations makes budget recommendations

The House continues to make progress on the state spending plan for the fiscal year that begins July 1.  This week the House Subcommittee on Education Appropriations made the changes that they would like to see to the education budget.

The committee kept in place full funding for the foundation formula and did not make any changes to the $10 million increase for school transportation.  The committee was able to find funding ($200,000) for the Missouri Scholars and Fine Arts Academies as well as money ($200,000) for early literacy programs.

The committee also added $300,000 for the Grow Your Own Program that is designed to provide grants to school districts that have programs to encourage high school students to go into the teaching profession.

The committee eliminated funding ($500,000) for expansion of virtual education critical course curriculum development for workforce training.   

Other budget highlights include:

  • $11.9 million increase for Early Childhood Special Education
  • $2 million for the foundation formula to include current year attendance for early childhood education
  • $200,000 increase for recruitment of teachers in urban schools
  • $10,000 for the development of high school curriculum for an online employment program
  • $295,000 to support High School Equivalency examination fees for first-time test takers

The committee recommendations now go to the full budget committee for their consideration prior to the budget bills being debated by the full House.

House education committee passes another voucher bill

The House Elementary and Secondary Education committee passed out another version of school vouchers this week in the form of HB2068 (Fitzwater).  The bill was amended in committee to more closely mirror SB581 (Cierpiot).  The legislation would allow for the usage of 529 plans for students to use for K-12 education expenses, but unlike a traditional 529, it would be funded by a new tax credit program.  Any taxpayer who makes a qualifying contribution to the Show Me a Brighter Future Scholarship may claim a tax credit equal to 100 percent of the total contribution but may not designate the students who will receive the voucher.  The tax credit program would begin at $25 million and could grow to a capped amount of $50 million per year.   

In order to be eligible for the program, a student must be a member of a household making less than two times the income standard for free and reduced-price lunches.  A family of four making almost $100,000 would qualify for the voucher program. The median household income for the state is $53,560. Missouri has fallen so far behind neighboring states and national trends regarding teacher salaries, that most education professionals’ families would qualify for this wide-open program.   

The amount of the scholarship awarded to an eligible student would range from an amount equal to the state adequacy target up to the state adequacy target multiplied by 1.75 for a special education eligible student. The current state adequacy target is $6,365.

The latest version of this new voucher program fails to include any accountability to taxpayers that programs funded by tax credits provide a quality education to students. The schools that may accept vouchers under this program are only required to have 80 percent of their teachers to hold a bachelor’s degree.  A survey will be conducted that includes “education outcomes of eligible students” and results of a parental survey, but the program will continue to operate regardless of what information comes back regarding student performance.   

This new voucher program further stresses funding for Missouri public schools.  The legislature each year passes laws prescribing what an education funded with public dollars must look like.  This legislation creates a separate education using public dollars to pay for an education with no accountability and no oversight from DESE or the Missouri General Assembly.   

The MSTA call to action on charter school expansion SB525 (Emery) and SB649 (Eigel) in the Senate is still active. SB581, which closely mirrors HB2068 is on the Senate informal calendar and could come up for debate at any time.  MSTA remains opposed to the creation of new expensive tax credit programs that would remove tax dollars from general revenue before the foundation formula is paid. Many MSTA members have reached out to their elected officials, but if you haven’t contacted your senator, there is still time, and MSTA Rapid Response makes it easy.

Committee gives approval to expansion of Visiting Scholars Certification

In 2018 the legislature established the Visiting Scholars Program that is designed to expand the pool of qualified instructors for business-education career pathways programs.  The provisions  allow the State Board of Education to grant an initial visiting scholar certificate as a license to teach in public schools. The applicant must be employed in a content area in which the individual has an academic degree or professional experience.

He or she may only teach classes for ninth grade or higher and the hiring school district must verify that the applicant will be employed as part of a business-education partnership initiative designed to build career pathways systems for students. The certificate will last for one year and the applicant can renew it a maximum of two times if certain requirements are met.

HB 2435 (Swan) expands the Visiting Scholars Certificate to not only business-education partnerships designed to build career pathways, but also as part of an initiative designed to fill vacant positions in hard-to-staff public schools or hard-to-fill subject areas for students in a grade or grades not lower than the ninth grade for which the applicant’s academic degree or professional experience qualifies.

The bill was approved by the House Elementary and Secondary Education Committee and will now be placed on the calendar to be debated by the full House.

Retirement bill filed that would allow districts to increase use of retirees as substitutes

MSTA has been working with the Public School Retirement System (PSRS) to help districts find solutions to a shortage of substitute teachers by increasing the amount of work that a retiree may serve as a substitute teacher in PSRS member schools. Representative Rusty Black has filed HB 2460 that is the agreed upon possible solution for this issue.

The bill creates a Missouri Emergency Substitute Teacher Pool. By September 10th of each school year each participating school district must notify the system of its desire to utilize the emergency substitute teacher pool. The pool allows any retired member of PSRS to be employed by a district that is participating in the Emergency Substitute Teaching Pool as a temporary or long-term substitute teacher and would be allowed to earn up to the federal social security annual earnings exemption (currently $18,240). Currently all PSRS retirees that go back to substitute teach are limited to working 550 hours and make no more that 50 percent of the pay for that position.  Districts that opt into the Missouri Emergency Substitute Teacher Pool will pay a contribution rate of two-thirds for each retiree.  With the current contribution rate of 14.5 percent, each district would pay 9.67 percent to the retirement system.

Retirees who work for districts that do not opt into the Missouri Emergency Substitute Teacher will still be subject to the 550 hour and 50 percent pay restrictions.  A retiree who works for multiple districts with one or more opting into the Missouri Emergency Substitute Teacher Pool will be able to work with both limits in place.

The bill also expands the Critical Shortage provisions in PSRS.  Currently a retiree can go back to work full time for a district in an area that is deemed as a critical shortage in a district and receive full retirement benefits and full pay for two years.  This bill expands the time a retiree can do this from two years to four years.   

This legislation does not make any changes for members of PSRS that work for a community college and includes a sunset for these new provisions of June 30, 2024.

IEP recording language added to gifted education bill in Senate committee

The Senate Education Committee voted out SB645 (Hoskins).  The underlying bill would mandate any district with at least 3 percent or more students are determined to be gifted, the district would be required to establish a state-approved gifted program.   

The bill also requires that any school district with more than 350 students must have a teacher certified to teach gifted education. In districts under 350 students, the teacher or teachers providing gifted instruction must participate at least six hours of professional development focused on gifted services. The State Board of Education must determine standards for gifted programs and gifted services.

In a committee substitute offered by Chair Sen. O’Laughlin, the committee attached language from HB1540 (Basye) that would allow parents or guardians to record IEP or 505 meetings by a student’s parent or guardian.  The recording is not considered a public record and no school district or charter school may impose pre-meeting notification requirements of a recording by a parent or legal guardian of more than 24 hours.  The bill also states that no school employee who reports violations under the bill may be subject to discharge, retaliation, or any other adverse employment action for making the report.

Bill Summaries

House 

Elementary and Secondary Education

HB1470 (Applebaum) requires teachers and principals to complete two hours of suicide prevention education each school year.

HB1565 (Basye) changes laws governing school district course materials and instruction on human sexuality or sexually transmitted diseases.

HB2435 (Swan) modifies the requirements for the visiting scholar teaching certificate. See story for more information.

Executive Session

HB2435 (Swan) modifies the requirements for a visiting scholar teaching certificate. Voted do pass with committee substitute.

HB1820 & 1470 (Kelley & Appelbaum) were combined to include professional development on suicide prevention.  The bills would also require that student identification cards for grades seven through 12 contain the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline number as well as the Crisis Text Line. Voted do pass with committee substitute.

HB1345 (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 bill requires that any course offered must follow applicable laws maintaining religious neutrality, and may not endorse, favor or promote, or show hostility to any religion, nonreligious faith or religious perspective.  Voted do pass with committee substitute.

HB1961 (Schroer) allows school districts to utilize volunteers who were formerly employed as a law enforcement officer, national guard member or U.S. Armed Forces but have retired to serve as a school protection officer on a paid or unpaid basis.  Voted do pass with committee substitute.

HB2068 (Fitzwater) creates the “Show Me a Brighter Future Scholarship Fund” voucher program.  See story for more information. Voted do pass with committee substitute.

Special Committee on Career Readiness

HB2387 (Riggs) creates the 21st Century Missouri Education Task Force to evaluate current education process and funding and make recommendations regarding public education.  Membership on the task force would include legislators, the Commissioner of the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, higher education, charter schools, teachers, parents and members of the business community.

Senate

Education

SB734 (Emery) changes the law regarding charter school funding.

SB802 (Hegeman) changes the law relating to the use of public funds by school districts or district employees in elections.

SJR50 (O’Laughlin) requires students participating in any single-gender event or activity organized by a statewide activity association to participate in the event corresponding to the students’ biological sex.

Executive Session 

SB645 (Hoskins) allows parents or guardians to record IEP and 504 plan meetings and changes sections of law relating to gifted education.  See story for more information.  Voted do pass with committee substitute. 

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