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House hands the state budget bills to the Senate

The House has completed its work on the 13 bills that make up the state’s roughly $28 billion budget for the 2019 fiscal year that begins on July 1.

HB2002 (Fitzpatrick) is the budget bill that funds public schools and the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. The bill approved by the House includes an additional $98 million to fully fund the foundation formula. Transportation funding would be funded with $92 million, which is $2 million more than what was distributed during the current year.

The bill includes $750,000 for Teach for America, $500,000 for a new K-3 reading assessment program, $250,000 for the Scholars and Fine Arts Academies, $300,000 for active shooter training and $59,713 for Early Childhood Quality Assurance Program.

The House plan does make a reduction of $5.8 million to the Missouri Preschool Project. This is a cut of half of the current funding. This cut is being made because of the provision of the foundation formula that allows districts to start receiving funding through the foundation formula for preschool students representing 4 percent of their students who qualify for free and reduced lunch in the district.

The other change made to the budget deals with the Missouri Charter Public School Commission. The plan cuts $250,000 from the commission and includes language that requires the offices to be located within 10 miles of Jefferson City.

The bills now move to the Senate for consideration. Any changes that they make to the bills will have to be worked out in a conference committee made up of members of both the House and Senate before the budget is sent to the governor.

Computer science bill approved by Senate committee

The Senate Economic Development Committee gave approval to HB1623 (Fitzwater) which requires that before July 1, 2019, the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education will develop a high school graduation policy that allows a student to fulfill one unit of academic credit with a district-approved computer science course for any math, science, or practical arts unit required for high school graduation.

The graduation policy must require that all students have either taken all courses that require end-of-course exams or are on track to take all courses that require end-of-course exams under the Missouri School Improvement Program.

A school district shall communicate to students electing to use a computer science course for a mathematics unit that some institutions of higher education may require four units of math for college admission. The parent of each student who chooses to take a computer science course in place of a fourth unit of math must sign and submit a document acknowledging that not taking a fourth unit of math may have an adverse effect on college admission decisions.

Before July 1, 2019, DESE will convene a workgroup to develop and recommend rigorous academic performance standards relating to computer science for kindergarten through 12th grade. The bill prescribes a work group that will include representatives from DESE, the Department of Higher Education, business and industry, kindergarten through 12th-grade educators, and institutions of higher education.

These standards must be adopted and implemented beginning in the 2019-2020 school year. DESE must also develop a procedure by which any licensed teacher who demonstrates sufficient content knowledge of computer science shall receive a special endorsement on his or her certificate signifying this specialized knowledge.

The act also creates the “Computer Science Fund” for the purpose of providing teacher professional development programs relating to computer science. The State Board shall award grants from the fund to eligible entities. The bill also requires DESE to create the “STEM Career Awareness Program” to increase STEM career awareness among students in grades six through eight. The statewide program must introduce students to a wide variety of STEM careers and technology through an online-based STEM curriculum.

Before Jan. 1, 2019, DESE shall solicit proposals and select a provider for the online program using specified criteria or choose a third-party nonprofit entity to implement the program, solicit proposals, and select a provider. The program will be funded by the STEM Career Awareness Program Fund and shall be promoted beginning with the 2019-2020 school year.

Finally, the bill establishes the Career Readiness Course Task Force to explore the possibility of a course for eighth- and ninth-grade students covering topics related to various career and educational opportunities. Before Dec. 1, 2019, the task force shall present its findings and recommendations to the Speaker of the House of Representatives, the President Pro Tem of the Senate, the Joint Committee on Education, and the State Board of Education. Upon presenting such findings and recommendations the task force will dissolve.

Charter school expansion bill in holding pattern

After a close 7-6 vote to get out of the House Elementary and Secondary Education Committee, HCS/HB2247 (Roeber) the charter expansion bill, has remained in a holding pattern but could be brought up by House leadership during the second half of session. MSTA remains opposed to HCS/HB2247. Charter school expansion without local community input and oversight of locally elected school boards creates problems of accountability from all education stakeholders in the community. This bill allows for expansion of charter schools to districts across the state and allows for open enrollment in those schools. A charter school would be able to operate in any school district in which at least one school that has received an annual performance report score of 60 percent or less for two of the three most recent reports. A charter school that opens in such a district must offer grade levels consistent with the grade levels offered by the attendance center which received the APR scores that allowed the charter school to open. The charter school would also be allowed to expand into other grade levels as well. The new charter school must give preference to pupils who reside in the attendance area of the school with APR scores that allowed the charter school to open. The charter school would be allowed to continue to operate regardless of future improvements of the school or district.

This bill establishes a performance standard that compares charter schools to certain selected students in the school district in which the charter school is located. MSTA believes that charter schools student populations should be representative of the overall district population, a provision not included in this legislation.

HCS/HB2247 requires all members of the governing board of a charter school to be Missouri income or property taxpayers, except that members serving as of Aug. 28, 2018 may serve the remainder of their terms regardless of this requirement. There is currently no requirement that those board members reside in the district in which the charter school opens.

Candidate filing closes

The filing period for the 2018 midterm elections closed this week, and 471 candidates have filed for office in the Missouri Senate and House. Due to term limits, and incumbents electing not to run for reelection, there are 59 seats that will have new representation next year. These open seats and the large number of filed candidates should make for a very competitive election. The MSTA Legislative Impact Committee advocates on behalf of members through candidate endorsements, campaign help, and monetary donations. 

The MSTA Legislative Impact Committee was created by the MSTA Executive Board in 1995. Initially, contributions to the Impact Committee were used to support key ballot issues for MSTA and its membership. In addition to this, Impact Committee funds are now donated to the campaigns of candidates who understand the needs and concerns of Missouri educators and MSTA. Although MSTA and its members have always worked hard to have their views heard in the General Assembly and to develop good relationships with lawmakers, legislative term-limits have resulted in many key public education supporters serving in office for a relatively short time. The Impact Committee helps support candidates for office who will be our new champions in the legislature. The committee is made up of one member from each MSTA region. These members make decisions about endorsements, fund disbursement and other campaign assistance based on the recommendations from candidate surveys, interviews, and prior voting records. For new candidates to be considered for support for their campaign, they must fill out a MSTA candidate questionnaire. The MSTA Legislative Impact Committee is 100 percent supported by voluntary donations. Participation is completely voluntary, and MSTA members have the right to refuse to participate in the political process without reprisal. The MSTA Impact Committee will meet in June and September to evaluate candidates and make plans for the upcoming elections.

The Missouri legislative primary election will be held on Aug 7, 2018 followed by the general election on Nov. 6.

House committee advances school safety bill

The House Special Committee on Homeland Security gave approval to HCS/HB2567 (Sommer) that establishes the School Safety Task Force to study school-based mental health services funding, staffing, standards, intervention, and intra- and interagency collaboration.

The task force will be made up of one member appointed by the statewide associations for: school counselors, licensed clinical social workers, education employee organization, association for teachers, school psychologists, school social workers, professional practice of marriage and family therapy, coalition of school administrators, school boards. One member shall be appointed from the Missouri Department of Mental Health, association of school resource officers, and the superintendent of the Missouri State Highway Patrol. Others on the task force include one member appointed by the governor, commissioner of education, two members appointed by the chair of the house elementary and secondary education committee and two members appointed by the chair of the Senate education committee.

The task force will report its findings and recommendations to the General Assembly by Dec. 1, 2019.

The bill also changes the law regarding school safety training. Currently, it is optional for school districts to conduct annual active shooter and intruder response training. This bill requires every school district and charter school to establish a school safety and emergency response procedure as well as an active shooter and intruder response training program. Schools must conduct the active shooter and intruder response training annually.

Bill Summaries

House

SB681 (Hummel) requires a student to receive instruction in Braille reading and writing as part of his or her individualized education plan (IEP) unless, as a result of an assessment, instruction in Braille or the use of Braille is determined not appropriate for the child. This act creates a definition of “assessment” and modifies the definition of “student”.

HB2555 (Ruth) substantially similar to SB681.

Executive Session

HB1712 (Pfautsch) requires all teacher training institutions to require students receiving degrees in elementary education after Jan. 1, 2020, to complete a minimum of six credit hours of literacy course work as prescribed in the bill. Voted Do Pass.

HB1847 (Kidd) authorizes a school board to remove its district’s operating levy from the definition of levies that are subject to tax increment allocation financing for redevelopment projects pursuant to Section 99.845, RSMo. The bill specifies that a district’s operating levy will be removed from the definition if a two-thirds majority of the school board votes in favor after permitting public comment on the matter at two consecutive school board meetings. Voted Do Pass.

Senate

HCS/HB1940 (Corlew) establishes the Cronkite New Voices Act which 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. School districts must adopt a written freedom of the press policy that includes reasonable provisions for the time, place, and manner of student expression. The policy may also restrict speech that is offensive or threatening. District or student-media adviser review of school-sponsored media and encouragement of professional standards of English and journalism will not abridge the right to freedom of expression. The bill forbids school districts from prior restraint of school sponsored media except in circumstances specified in the bill.

SB709 (Schatz) changes the process by which travel hardships are granted to public school pupils. A parent or guardian of any pupil residing in any school district in the state is authorized to submit an application to the Commissioner of Education requesting that the pupil and any sibling of the pupil be assigned to another school district.

The act specifies that the driving distance from the pupil’s residence to his or her school in the district of residence must be 15 miles or more by the shortest route available. The new school must be at least 5 miles closer in actual driving distance to the pupil’s residence, and the attendance of the pupil must not cause the classroom in the receiving district to exceed the number of pupils per class set by the receiving district.

The commissioner is required to assign pupils in the order in which applications are received. Once granted, the hardship assignment shall continue until the pupil, and any siblings of the pupil attending the same school completes their course of study in the receiving district or the parent withdraws the pupil. If withdrawn, subsequent grants of applications are discretionary.

A pupil who is not currently enrolled in a public school district becomes eligible to apply after the pupil has enrolled in and completed a full school year in a public school in his or her district of residence. The board of education of the district in which the pupil resides must pay the tuition of the pupil reassigned, which shall not exceed the pro rata cost of instruction.

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