Missouri House has limited session this week, passing supplemental budget

The House Budget Committee met on Sunday afternoon to work late into the night on the fiscal year 2021 state budget, with plans to pass next year’s budget on the House floor this week.  Those plans were changed by legislative leaders early in the week and the full House worked on the current year supplemental budget instead.  A key late change to the supplemental budget is the addition of $33 million in spending authority for the governor to spend from federal funds to combat COVID-19. 

The Senate announced late last week they would not be in session this week, extending their normally scheduled spring break by one week. 

The legislature is currently scheduled to return on Monday, March 30. Leaders in both the Senate and House have indicated they will revisit their decisions on when to reconvene the legislative session.   

MSTA response to COVID-19

This week, Missouri State Teachers Association Executive Director Bruce Moe addressed members on the MSTA website and social media platforms.  His clear message explained how MSTA is advocating for members as well as the steps MSTA is taking to ensure continued service and advocacy for education professionals.   

Teachers are faced with a series of ever-changing circumstances in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. MSTA sent letters to Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos and Missouri legislators in Washington, D.C., asking for testing requirements to be waived this year. Read the letters

The Commissioner of the Missouri Department of Education Dr. Margie Vandeven recently made the following statement regarding state testing, “There is a time and a place for statewide required assessments and now is not the time. Effective immediately, Missouri will be cancelling statewide required assessments for this school year”.  She also stated that she believes the federal government will waive federally required testing in the very near future.    

As of now, decisions on school closures are being made at the local level. Forty-One states have made the tough decision to close their schools. All districts and charter schools across Missouri have modified their current school year calendars, but Missouri teachers continue to be faced with a patchwork of policies, expectations and in some cases arbitrary punitive decisions by school districts.  Leaving decisions regarding school closures, staff responsibilities, and expectations for students and staff at the local level has created more anxiety, stress and confusion at a time when information continues to evolve and change.  MSTA believes it is time for Gov. Mike Parson to lead the state and provide guidance and clarity to Missouri’s public schools.  During this state of National Emergency, state leaders across the country are providing statewide solutions to direct education professionals, allowing students, parents, and communities to understand and better prepare for the months ahead as we fight together against the coronavirus.  

MSTA is collecting a list of resources to help you engage with your students while schools are closed. MSTA has a constantly updated FAQ available to members.  Things are rapidly changing across our country, and members should refer to the MSTA website for the most up-to-date information.  

MSTA Region Capitol Visits canceled

The remaining MSTA Region Capitol Visits have been canceled.  MSTA has sent a notice to all members who have registered online for upcoming visits.  While the legislature may not be meeting, members can still be advocates for public education.  MSTA encourages you to reach out to your elected officials to let them know you will stay engaged on important education issues.  

MSTA has made the Capitol Visit Guide available online, and we are also working on putting together a virtual Capitol Visit after the legislative spring break.  As always, you can be assured that MSTA lobbyists will be advocating for you.  Stay up to date on the latest in Jefferson City by reading MSTA Action, and text “MSTA” to 52886 to enroll in MSTA Rapid Response.

MSTA will send you more information as it is available regarding the online Capitol Visit opportunities. 
 

PSRS/PEERS issues statement on COVID-19

The Public School Education Employee Retirement Systems of Missouri has been keeping members up to date regarding the impact of the COVID-19 virus on the retirement system.  The system reinforces the security members have in a defined benefit plan.  Unlike deferred contribution plans such as a 401(k) or IRA account, your benefit is not influenced by the stock market and will not fluctuate.  

As the stock market grew over the last 10 years, the PSRS investment team, with guidance from the PSRS board of trustees, constantly rebalanced assets across their investment portfolio.  The system will feel an impact from the downturn in the market, but is highly diversified among many different investment classes.   

For a better breakdown of how your retirement funds are invested, as well as the full statement from PSRS/PEERS on March 16, 2020, follow the link below.  

https://www.psrs-peers.org/News/2020/03/16/Coronavirus-and-the-Investment-Environment  

Education bills at spring break

As the legislature reaches their spring break, it is a good time to look at what bills have been approved by one chamber.  Under normal circumstances, the second half of session is the time where committees begin hearing bills that were approved by the other chamber.   

The House has passed and sent to the Senate the following bills  related to education.   

HB1317 (Sommer) allows parents or guardians to record any meeting held under the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act or Section 504 plan meeting and requires school districts to establish a state-approved gifted program.  

HB1559 (Remole) exempts certain schools from the state minimum wage law requirements.  

HB1568 (Bailey) changes the laws regarding seclusion and restraint polices in public schools. 

HB1868 (Swan) requires the State Board of Education to develop a statewide plan for minimum requirements for career and technical education certificates. 

HB1682 (Wood) prohibits vapor product usage in indoor areas of public schools or on school buses. 

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

HB1540 (Basye) permits recording of IEP or Section 504 meetings by a student’s parent or legal guardian. 

The Senate has passed and sent to the House the following bills  related to education.   

SB528 (Cunningham) requires the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education to transfer any excess foundation formula funding to the school transportation fund. 

Governor moves municipal elections

Gov. Mike Parson signed Executive Order 20-03 this week, moving the General Municipal Election scheduled for April 7, 2020. 

Many communities across the state had school board elections or funding issues on the ballot.   Parson announced this week that under the current state of emergency, he has suspended the April election and is moving it to June 2 citing Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendations for canceling or suspending gathers and limiting close contacts.  

The governor cited state law that allows him broad power during a declared state of emergency.