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See you at the Capitol

By MSTA President Nickie Jones

My word for 2020 is “empower.” I strive to empower my students to gain the skills and work habits they will need to be successful in the future. I strive to empower my own children to be confident, independent thinkers and lifelong learners. And I strive to empower fellow MSTA members to engage in our association to further our profession.

Not everyone has the ability to commit the time to serving as an officer or a committee member. But we are all invested in the state of the teaching profession, and there are other ways that you can be involved in making sure that the “powers that be” in Jefferson City make decisions that are good for teachers and kids. Every MSTA member has the power to help shape the future of teaching, and one very effective way of doing this is by attending an upcoming legislative Capitol Day.

If you have never attended a Capitol Day event, here’s a quick rundown of what the day looks like: a very helpful briefing of impending education legislation by Governmental Relations Manager Matt Michelson, time to visit with your representative and/or senator before they head into session, an opportunity to observe debate in both the House and Senate, a break for lunch, then either more time to visit with legislators or head back home.

Matt and other MSTA staff provide a wealth of valuable information during the briefing. You will be prepared to speak knowledgeably with your legislators with helpful talking points. It can be difficult, at times, to catch your legislator in his/her office (they are often in committee meetings before general session), so I encourage you to call or email ahead of time and make an appointment. And if you can bring others from your district, even better!

Finally, there are other quick and easy ways to stay informed and involved in education legislation. Make sure you keep up to date with MSTA Action emails that summarize legislative activity on a weekly basis during the regular legislative session (January through May). Call or email your legislator when there is pending legislation that affects our schools and our kids. And keep those lines of communication open throughout the year…send a thank-you email after a supportive vote or a “welcome back” at the beginning of the legislative session. Your representative or senator will appreciate the gesture.

An engaged and active association is a powerful association! With your voice, we can keep the education profession strong for future teachers.

Members are encouraged to sign up in advance to attend a MSTA Region Capitol Day.  Visit msta.org, then click on capitol visit and find your region to get registered.

House Education Committee narrowly passes bill prohibiting teachers from testifying in favor or against legislation

HB1347 (Baker) modifies the law that currently prohibits the contribution or expenditure of public funds, including public resources or specified property, by any officer, board member, director, administrator, employee, or agent of any political subdivision to advocate, support, or oppose any ballot measure or candidate for public office. The most concerning part of this legislation restricts public employees– including teachers– from testifying before the general assembly while receiving compensation for time worked. The bill provides an even deeper chilling effect on testimony by allowing any resident of the state to bring a lawsuit with the public employee named as the defendant. If the court decides there was a violation, there is no penalty for the first violation. A second violation would subject the district to a $1000 fine or an amount 10 times the amount of the expenditure, whichever is greater.   

Missouri currently has laws in place that prevent public resources from being used to advocate, support, or oppose ballot measures or candidates for office. The Missouri Ethics Commission accepts complaints if there are violations of this law, and acts as an enforcement agency to ensure these situations don’t occur.

Most public education decisions are made at the local level, but there are many decisions that affect students and teachers that are made each session in Jefferson City.  Teachers are professionals and should have the same rights as any other Missouri citizen to address their elected officials and go on the record in favor or against policies that will impact education in Missouri. Often times, Missouri teachers are called on to give their expertise on issues such as the Legislative Task Force on Dyslexia.  Testimony from professional educators allow legislators to understand the true impact of public policy decisions in the classrooms across the state. MSTA testified against this bill and remains opposed on this harmful and punitive legislation. 

The House Education Committee approved the bill this week by one vote, it will now go to the Rules-Administrative Oversight Committee before it could be placed on the calendar for debate by the full House.

Voted in Favor: Rep. Basye, Rep. Bailey, Rep. Baker, Rep. Christofanelli, Rep. O’Donnell, Rep. Stacy, Rep. Schroer.

Voted against: Rep. Eslinger, Rep. Dogan, Rep. Bangert, Rep. Paula Brown, Rep. Morgan, Rep. Proudie.

Senate Education Committee has new chair

With the appointment of Sen. Gary Romine to the State Tax Commission, President Pro Tem Dave Schatz appointed Sen. Cindy O’Laughlin to serve as the new chair of the Senate Education Committee. Sen. O’Laughlin is in her first term in the Senate. The senator and her husband own and operate a trucking company and ready-mix concrete business with locations across north central Missouri. She has served on the education committee since taking office and formerly served on the Shelby R-IV School Board.   

Sen. Schatz also appointed Sen. Mike Cierpiot of Lee’s Summit to the Senate Education Committee.

House give first-round approval to bill dealing with PSRS

This week the House gave first-round approval to a bill designed to have more transparency in the operation of the Public School Retirement System.

HB1934 (Wiemann) exempts information pertaining to the salaries and benefits of the executive director and employees of the Board of the Public School Retirement System of Missouri from being confidential.

Currently, individually identifiable information pertaining to members, retirees, beneficiaries and survivors are confidential. Because employees of PSRS are also member of the system they were covered under this provision. This bill would create an exemption so the salaries of the executive director and other employees of the board would be made public.

The bill needs one more vote in the House before moving to the Senate.

Senate approves bill to boost transportation funding

The Senate approved a bill this week that could boost funding for school transportation.

SB528 (Cunningham) would require that in any fiscal year in which the total foundation formula appropriation is greater than the amount reimbursed to schools, the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education shall transfer the excess funding to the School Transportation Fund established in this act.

The fund shall be administered by the commissioner of the Department, and any funds deposited into the fund shall be paid to school districts to provide transportation to students, in addition to state aid currently provided for transportation of students, based on the number of students transported by the district.

While the state has fully funded the foundation formula over the past couple of years, it has consistently fallen short of meeting a requirement that it pay for 75 percent of local district transportation costs.

Each budgeting cycle, the state uses a complex formula to calculate how much money it will pay school districts to educate students through the foundation formula. Those estimates can be affected by many factors such as student attendance, meaning there is sometimes money left over at the end of the year.

The bill now heads to the House.

House committee hears bills on vaping in schools

The House Elementary and Secondary Education Committee heard a pair of bills this week dealing with vaping.

The first bill would treat vaping in schools just like using tobacco. HB1682 (Wood) prohibits the use of vapor products, in any indoor area of a public school or school bus. The bill also allows a school board to adopt additional policies relating to vapor products.

The second bill would educate students on the effects of vaping. HB1808 (Wood) requires the State Board of Education to amend the upcoming health or physical education academic performance standards, learning standards, and curriculum frameworks to include instruction on the use and effect of vapor products.

During the hearing, students told stories of the increased use of vaping and how the number of discipline referrals for vaping has increased in their schools. Back in October, Gov. Mike Parson signed an executive order regarding the use of vaping devices among youth in Missouri. The order directs the Departments of Health and Senior Services, Elementary and Secondary Education, and Public Safety to use existing resources to develop a statewide campaign to educate, warn and deter the use of vaping devices among Missouri’s youth.

Be the first to know with MSTA Rapid Response

MSTA’s Rapid Response program continues to evolve.

MSTA Action is a great way to keep up to date on legislation and budget issues in the Missouri General Assembly.  MSTA members are always encouraged to maintain relationships with their elected officials and attend a MSTA Region Capitol Visit.  Many times, issues that progress during the session need special attention and advocacy from MSTA members.  In order to facilitate a prompt and direct action from members, MSTA utilizes the MSTA Rapid Response program.  This year, that advocacy has expanded to include the ability to text message members to take quick action on bills.   

To enroll in the MSTA Rapid Response program and be the first to know when important legislation needs greater member interaction, text “msta” to 52886.  You will then be sent a link to complete a short form and you will be enrolled.

Stay tuned for MSTA’s “Who You Know” campaign that will help link MSTA Government Relations staff to members that have already developed relationships with elected officials.

Bill Summaries

House 

Elementary and Secondary Education

HB1682 (Wood) prohibits vapor products usage in indoor areas of public schools or on school buses, see article for more information.

HB1808 (Wood) requires school districts to include instruction on the use and effects of vapor products, see article for more information.

HB1817 (Dinkins) excludes certain administrative penalties from the calculation of local effort in Iron County.

HB1818 (Dinkins) removes increases in the amount received from fines for school purposes from the calculation of local effort for school districts.

Executive Session

HB1347 (Baker) changes the law relating to the prohibition on expenditure of public funds to support or oppose candidates and certain measures, see article for more information. Voted do pass with committee substitute.

HB1903 (Shields) allows school districts that share superintendents to receive additional state aid. Voted do pass.