Through an Executive Order, Governor Mike Parson established the Missouri School Safety Task Force. The task force will look at incidents of school violence and seek ways to keep Missouri schools safe. The task force will study the recent Federal Commission on School Safety report from Missouri’s perspective and will identify gaps, shortfalls and suggest policy changes. A statewide analysis of school safety will be conducted to evaluate existing best practices in Missouri and identify areas of improvement.
The Task Force will include the following:
- The Lieutenant Governor, who will serve as the Chair
- The Director of the Department of Public Safety
- The Commissioner of the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education
- The Director of the Department of Mental Health
- A representative from the Missouri School Boards’ Association
- A representative from the Center for Education Safety
- A school resource officer
The Governor may also appoint other members to the commission if needed. The Task Force will develop and submit a report of its findings and recommendations, which may include a statewide strategic plan to the Governor by July 31, 2019.
MSTA has already been in discussions with the office of the Lieutenant Governor and will continue to advocate that the task force include the vital input of education professionals at all levels, and that the School Safety Task Force will include discussions regarding teacher and student safety in the classroom setting and mental health issues surrounding violence in schools.
Governor Parson appointed Mary Sheid from West Plains to serve on the State Board of Education. Sheid is the Owner/CEO of Physical Therapy Specialists, Inc, starting the clinic in 1990. She has served on a variety of professional boards and community organizations, including the Missouri State University Board of Governors and serves as project director for SOARHigh, an intervention program that looks to address regional factors that adversely affect student health. A graduate of the University of Missouri, she holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Physical Therapy as well as a second Bachelor’s Degree from Drury College.
Bills opposed by MSTA failed to advance in the week before spring break. MSTA members continue to make a difference at the Capitol to ensure Missouri students, families and community member’s voices are heard. The charter school expansion bill, HB581 (Roeber) was to be brought up for discussion this week, but after several attempts to modify the bill to secure enough votes for passage the bill was not brought up for debate. MSTA remains in opposition to this legislation. Local control of public schools is vital to ensure accountability for public education in Missouri communities and ensure all taxpayers have a voice in the schools in their communities. The bill fails to ensure that locally elected school boards have oversight of charter schools in Missouri communities.
SB160 (Koenig) creates a $25 million dollar tax credit program that would be used to create Missouri Empowerment Scholarships. This new voucher program stalled in the Missouri Senate when it was brought up for debate. Senators from both political parties and from across the state spoke against the bill, with opposition led by Sen. Gary Romine, Sen. Doug Libla, Sen. Lauren Arthur and Sen. Lincoln Hough. After several hours of debate, the bill was not voted on and was placed back on the calendar where it can again be brought up for discussion. A substitute bill was offered that would phase in the program over three years, and includes language from past student transfer legislation as well as the fast-track workforce incentive grant. MSTA remains opposed to this program due to the lack of accountability and standards for the schools that would accept these scholarships funded by Missouri taxes.
As the legislature reaches their spring break, it is a good time to look at what bills have been approved by one chamber. The second half of session is the time where committees will begin hearing bills that were approved by the other chamber.
The House has passed and sent to the Senate three bills that are related to education.
HB77 (R. Black) excludes any person retired and currently receiving a retirement allowance and is employed by a public community college from the $15,000 compensation cap and replaces that with a cap of working no more than 550 hours.
HB161 (Knight) modifies the law governing school start dates by removing the option that school districts may set an opening date more than 14 calendar days prior to the first Monday in September.
HB743 (Fishel) provides that in both public high schools and public institutions of higher education a student journalist has the right to exercise freedom of speech and of the press in school-sponsored media.
There are also four bills that only need one more vote in the House to be sent to the Senate:
HB169 (Gannon) Beginning in school year 2020-2021, each public school shall provide instruction in 4th grade, and an optional course in 8th grade on how to navigate online courses and engage in appropriate online behavior.
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.
HB456 (Neely) creates a STEM diploma endorsement for high school students who demonstrate mastery in the STEM disciplines.
The Senate has passed SB17 (Romine) that is substantially similar to HB77 (R. Black) that changes the employment limitations for a PSRS retiree that works for a public community college.
The House Special Committee on Student Accountability gave approval to bills designed to help schools provide instruction to students on days when school is cancelled.
HB281 (Kelley) and HB570 (Ruth) allow a district to use an alternative instruction plan approved by the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education for up to 60 hours of missed instruction time due to inclement weather.
Any plan submitted to the Department of Elementary Education for approval shall include at least the following:
- 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 bill will have to be approved by the House Rules Committee before it can be debated by the full House of Representatives.
This week the House Budget Committee gave approval to the 13 bills that make up the states operating budget.
HB2 (Smith) is the budget bill that provides funding for the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education and public schools. The budget passed by the committee included and additional $61 million to fully fund the school foundation formula as well as a $5 million increase for student transportation.
Other programs that would increase under the current budget plan include:
$3.1 million increase for Parents as Teachers
$700,000 for School Safety Grants
$150,00 for Missouri Scholars and Fine Arts Academies
$300,000 for computer science professional development
After the legislature returns from spring break, the House will give final approval to the budget and send it to the Senate for their work in committee and full debate.
Elementary and Secondary Education
HB594 (Swan) expands the eligibility of children between the age of three and five to qualify for a district’s or charter school’s calculation of average daily attendance if they attend an early childhood education program under contract with a school.
HB1024 (Dogan) requires the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education to create a work group to develop and recommend rigorous academic performance standards relating to workforce development for students in grades one through 12. The work group must consist of nine members appointed by the Governor and all meetings for the work group will be open to the public to provide testimony. The bill requires the work group to develop alternate academic achievement standards for students with the most significant cognitive disabilities and employability skills curriculum. These standards and curriculum will be presented to the State Board of Education and the General Assembly, which may adopt or request modifications. The work group will dissolve one year after any requested modifications are made.
HB606 (Basye) modifies criminal background checks of school bus drivers to include those drivers employed by municipalities or any other entity under contract with a school district. The bill authorizes school boards to contract with municipalities to transport high school children. The contract must require the presence of an adult supervisor approved by the school board on any municipal vehicle transporting school children. While transporting school children, municipal vehicles must include seating designated solely for school children. Voted do pass.
Special Committee on Student Accountability
HB534(Swan) creates the School-Community Partnership Fund to finance grants to public and charter schools for the purpose of leveraging community resources to increase student success. The fund is financed by money that may be appropriated by the General Assembly and by any voluntary contributions from other sources. The fund may only be used to administer grants to schools. The bill also authorizes schools to create school-community partnerships pursuant to plans submitted to and approved by the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. The State Board of Education shall award grants from the School-Community Partnership Fund to schools that achieve the measurable outcomes described in their school-community partnership plans. Schools without an approved partnership plan are not eligible for grants. The bill also requires the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education revise its scoring guide under the Missouri School Improvement Program to provide additional points to schools that achieve the measurable outcomes described in their school-community partnership plans.
HB309 (Walker) requires a public or charter school to offer breakfast after the bell if 70% or more of the school’s students were eligible for free or reduced price meals in the previous year, the school uses the United States Department of Agriculture Community Eligibility Option, or the school has an individual site percentage for free or reduced price meals of 70% or more and is a Provision II school as described in 7 CFR 245.9. A school in which 70% or more of its students who are eligible for free or reduced price meals participate in the School Breakfast Program shall not be required to offer breakfast under the bell. Schools may provide breakfast after the bell even if not required by the bill. Schools must offer breakfast after the bell to all students in the school, including students who arrive late or by a different mode of transportation than most students. Schools may choose a service model that best suits their students, including breakfast in the classroom or breakfast after first period. Schools shall not be required to offer breakfast after the bell if the federal per-meal reimbursements for free or reduced price breakfasts are decreased below 2019 levels or eliminated.
HCS/HB281 & 570 (Kelley) allow a district to use an alternative instruction plan approved by the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education for up to 60 hours of missed instruction time. See earlier story. Voted do pass with substitute.
SB365 (Hoskins) 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 the Joint Committee on Education.
SB407 (Wallingford) expands the eligibility of children between the age of three and five to qualify for a district’s or charter school’s calculation of average daily attendance if they attend an early childhood education program under contract with a school.
SCS/SB272 (Emery) under current law, the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education will reimburse 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 the bill, the calculation of three times the current expenditure per ADA shall not include any money reimbursed to a school district under the act. Voted do pass with substitute.
SCS/SB205 (Arthur) modifies the A+ Schools program by adding a requirement that high schools in the program demonstrate a commitment to ensure that all students earn credits towards any type of college degree while in high school. The Department of Higher Education will establish a procedure for the reimbursement of the cost of tuition and fees for any dual-credit or dual-enrollment course offered to a student in high school in association with a public community college or vocational or technical school. Currently, to be eligible for the program a student must have attended a high school in Missouri for at least three years prior to graduation. This act provides that the student must have attended a high school in the state for at least two years. The Department must distribute reimbursements first to community college or vocational or technical school students, then to any dual-credit or dual-enrollment students, on the basis of financial need. Voted do pass with substitute.