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Teacher externship bill advances

The House gave first-round approval to HB462 (Shields) that would create certified teacher externships. The bill would require the Department of Economic Development and the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education to adopt requirements for teacher externships. The bill would allow for a tax credit of up to 50 percent of the cost incurred to any business that provides an opportunity for a teacher externship, but unlike other tax credit programs, the funding would be subject to the legislative appropriations process. These tax credits may not be transferred, sold, or assigned. The program would automatically sunset after five years. These protections give further oversight and accountability to the new tax credit program.

The Department of Economic Development and the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education would also adopt an equivalency schedule that would allow the externship to be considered for salary increases similar to graduate-level coursework on district salary schedules.

Committee hears alternative methods of instruction bill

The House Special Committee on Student Accountability heard a bill that could help school districts provide instruction to students when school is not in session because of poor weather. This year at the MSTA Assembly of Delegates, a resolution was approved to support allowing districts to voluntarily use an alternative method of instruction.

HB281 (Kelley) allows a district to use an alternative instruction plan approved by the DESE for up to 60 hours due to inclement weather.

The bill is expected to include provisions that are in HB570 (Ruth) dealing with the same issue. HB570 has more specifics on what shall be in a district plan including:

• The way the district intends to strengthen and reinforce instructional content while supporting student learning outside the classroom environment

• The process the district intends to use to communicate to students and parents the decision to implement alternative methods of instruction on any day of a closure

• The manner in which the district intends to communicate the purpose and expectations for a day in which alternative methods of instruction will be implemented to students and parents

• The assignments and materials to be used within the district for days in which alternative methods of instruction will be implemented to effectively facilitate teaching and support learning for the benefit of the students

• The way student attendance will be determined for a day in which alternative methods of instruction will be implemented. The method chosen shall be linked to completion of lessons and activities

• The instructional methods, which shall include instruction through electronic means and instruction through other means for students who have no access to internet services or a computer

• Instructional plans for students with individualized education programs

• The role and responsibility of certified personnel to be available to communicate with students

The committee is expected to take action to approve the bill during their meeting next week.

Committee approves School Turnaround Act

The House Elementary and Secondary Education Committee gave approval to HB604 (Henderson) known as the School Turnaround Act.

The purpose of the bill is to make sure that struggling schools are identified and that assistance may come from a company experienced in helping schools. The bill also establishes a way for the state to pay these companies.

The bill states the DESE shall use an outcome-based measure to set criteria for the designation of schools in need of intervention and specifies a timeline for the initial remedial year. The bill also specifies that before Aug. 30, 2020, the department must identify two or more approved independent school turnaround experts of which schools in need of intervention may partner.

If a school is identified as needing interventions, it may contract with an independent school turnaround expert (individual or company). Payment for that assistance will come from a state fund that is established. Funding for this purpose would be at the discretion of the legislature. 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.

Bill Summaries

House

Downsizing State Government

Executive Session

HB343 (Baringer) allows public school students to possess and apply topical sunscreen products if supplied by the student, their 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. Voted do pass.

Elementary and Secondary Education

HB485 (Dogan) This bill defines accreditation standards and requires that the State Board of Education adopt modified accreditation standards for special school districts (SSD) to reflect the educational needs of SSD students.

HB924 (Razer) changes provisions relating to charter schools. The bill says a sponsor of a charter school that fails to receive renewal of its charter after the three-year term shall not sponsor any new charter schools until the State Board of Education has determined that the sponsor was in compliance for any charter school it sponsored at the time a charter school failed to receive renewal. The bill creates a student mobility ratio for districts as a calculation of the number of students withdrawing for reasons other than academic promotion over the total number of students. The bill states that an underperforming school includes those in which the percentage of the charter school’s students who perform proficient and advanced on the annual statewide system of assessments in English language arts and mathematics is lower than the average percentage of grade-level-equivalent students in district in which it is located who perform proficient and advanced in English language arts and mathematics. This bill requires student mobility ratio to be calculated annually by DESE for charter schools and the districts in which charter schools are located. If the student mobility ratio is higher than the districts in two of three years, then the charter governing board and sponsor shall amend the performance contract, review enrollment and counseling practices, and implement a remedial plan to be approved by the State Board of Education

Executive Session

HCS/HB604 (Henderson) establishes the School Turnaround Act. Voted do pass with committee substitute, see earlier story.

HCS/HB763 (Remole) defines private schools as any non-public school or school operated by a religious organization and specifies that private schools shall not be required to increase their minimum wage to $8.60 or the applicable federal rate on Jan. 1, 2019 or increase it annually as required by current law. Voted do pass with substitute.

Pensions

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 60 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. Voted do pass.

Special Committee on Student Accountability

HB476 (Bailey) creates a state treasury fund entitled Bryce’s Law Scholarship Fund to receive money appropriated by the General Assembly as well as other fund sources. The amount of moneys to be deposited annually into the Bryce’s Law Scholarship Fund by the General Assembly shall be determined by multiplying the estimated number of scholarships that will be awarded during the fiscal year by the “special education state adequacy target,” as defined in the bill. The bill further directs the DESE to establish a program to award grants from the fund to scholarship granting organizations. Criteria specifying requirements for recipients are outlined in the bill, as well as limits to scholarship-granting organizations disbursements. MSTA testified in opposition.

HB281 (Kelley) allows a district to use an alternative instruction plan approved by the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. See earlier story.

HB112 (Sommer) requires school districts to establish a state-approved gifted program if 3 percent or more of the students are determined to be gifted. Districts with average daily attendance of 350 or fewer students are not required to have a teacher certificated to teach gifted education, but any teacher providing gifted instruction without a gifted-teaching certificate must participate in six hours per year of professional development regarding gifted services.

Executive Session

HCR13 (Trent) offers supporting reasons for the inclusion of religious instruction in public high schools in Missouri. The resolution encourages schools to offer to students elective courses on the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament) and on the New Testament and their influence. The resolution further suggests that all world literature courses should include three weeks on wisdom literature from the Bible. Voted do pass.

HB572 (Dinkins) requires physical education classes to include hunter education instruction in sixth, seventh or eighth grade.  Districts and charter schools may include firearm safety in high school physical education classes. The bill also mandates that a firearm safety program be taught in first grade. No student shall be required to attend training if their parent or guardian object to the program. Voted do pass.

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

Senate

Education

SB272 (Emery) Under current law, DESE reimburses school districts for the costs of special education for high-needs children with an Individualized Education Program (IEP) exceeding three times the current expenditure per average daily attendance as calculated on the district annual secretary of the board report for the year in which the expenditures are claimed. Under this bill, any money reimbursed to a school district under current law is excluded from such calculation.

SB295 (Hough) requires school districts to conduct a criminal background check on any person who assists a school by providing uncompensated service and who may be left alone with students. Volunteers that are not screened shall not be left alone with a student or have access to student records.

Executive Session

SB168 (Wallingford) requires that in any request for proposals by a school district a product to be used may be specified, provided that the RFP does not specify a proprietary product and the RFP does not require action by specified individuals. The bill additionally requires that in accepting proposals, a school district must accept bids from at least three vendors who supply substantially similar products. If, at the end of the advertising period, the school district has not received three bids then the school district is required to advertise for an additional two weeks. If at the end of that period, the school district still has not received three bids then it may accept bids from less than three vendors. Voted do pass.

SB206 (Arthur) Currently, any school district authorizing the construction of facilities that may cost more than $15,000 must advertise in a newspaper and comply with certain bidding requirements. This bill increases that amount to $50,000. Voted do pass.