MSTA went on record in opposition to HCB6 (Roeber) that would place additional limitations on public employees, such as teachers when it comes to advocating issues that affect their profession.
MSTA has always supported the current law that states that public money should not be used when advocating for candidates, ballot measures or bills before the legislature. HCB6 places additional limitations on public employees to speak in support or opposition to legislation, even when not acting in an official capacity.
The bill 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. Individuals are also restricted from advocating for or against any legislation pending before the General Assembly when acting in an official capacity or during work hours.
The filed bill would not prohibit any officer, board member, director, administrator, employee, or agent of a political subdivision or special district from making public appearances, issuing press releases or testifying before the General Assembly as long as they testify for informational purposes only and do not do so in their official capacity while receiving compensation unless such actions are part of their job description.
In testimony against the bill, MSTA lobbyists argued that this could limit the ability of legislative committees to hear from experts on issues that are before legislative committees. Some of the best information that legislators hear comes from the professional educators in the classroom, who can explain how things currently work and how changes to state law would help or hurt their students.
The bill also changes school board terms to four years and changes the school board election date from every year in April to every other year as part of the November general elections.
The House gave final approval to the $30 billion state budget for fiscal year 2020. The budget bills now move on to the Senate where they will work on their version before resolving any differences between the two versions of the budget bills.
The House budget includes a $61 million increase to the foundation formula. This increase will fully fund the formula for the 2019-20 school year. The budget also includes a $5 million increase to student transportation. The governor had recommended a $10 million increase for transportation. The Parents as Teachers Program would see an increase of $3.1 million.
The most substantial change made to HB2 (Smith) that funds DESE was the reduction for school safety grants. Originally the budget included $700,000 for school safety grants. That was reduced to $300,000 by different amendments during floor debate on the bill. Because of the reduction in this area, additions were made for an Early Learning Quality Assurance Report ($260,000) and a Community in Schools Pilot Program for the Boonville School District ($200,000). Money was also added for first-time takers of the HiSET in the amount of $400,000.
The budget bill also includes $150,000 for the Missouri Scholars and Fine Arts Academies, $150,000 for a K-3 reading assessment, and $200,000 for the “My Scholars App” to help students in St. Louis Public Schools.
The House approved and sent two bills that relate to public education to the Senate.
HB169 (Gannon) requires each public school to provide instruction in fourth grade, and an optional course in eighth grade on how to navigate online courses and engage in appropriate online behavior, beginning in school year 2020-2021.
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.
While MSTA Region Capitol Visits have concluded, MSTA members are encouraged to continue to advocate with their elected officials as the legislative session continues. The MSTA Capitol Visits are a great opportunity for members to connect with their representatives on issues that affect students, schools and communities across Missouri. Professional educators are a vital voice in the legislative process to ensure that the effects of bills are understood by representatives and senators and to bring forward new ideas. MSTA will continue to update members on the status of legislation through the remainder of session in MSTA Action, social media and any special email alerts, if necessary.
For those interested in becoming further involved in the political process, MSTA holds an annual campaign school in the summer. The date for the 2019 campaign school will be June 17 in Columbia, Mo. For more information, contact MSTA Government Relations or your Member Services Coordinator.
Elementary and Secondary Education
HB1010 (Ross) authorizes DESE to develop a pilot program, beginning in the 2020- 2021 school year, to provide for agricultural education in elementary schools. The purpose is to determine whether and how to implement an elementary agricultural education program statewide. The bill states that DESE shall select a minimum of one public elementary school from each of the 16 geographic areas across the state. The local school board for each elementary school selected to be in the pilot program shall agree to implement and fully fund an elementary agricultural education program for a period of at least three years. The curriculum for this program will be established through a collaboration of DESE and local school districts, and such curriculum must meet the criteria set forth in the bill. A program evaluation regarding the success and impact of the pilot program shall be provided by DESE, and shall report the results of such evaluation to the relevant House and Senate committees on agriculture and education.
HB1139 (Baker) prohibits the local prosecuting attorney from reviewing home school records without reasonable suspicion of a violation of law. A public school must keep confidential any individually identifiable information about children receiving home school education and parents of such children. The bill also repeals provisions regarding parents providing notice that their children will attend home school.
HCB6 (Roeber) 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. Individuals are also restricted from advocacy before the General Assembly when acting in an official capacity or during work hours. This bill does not prohibit these individuals from making public appearances or from issuing press releases concerning any such ballot measure. The bill does allow the use of legislative liaisons by political subdivisions and special districts to communicate information to the General Assembly about their policies and procedures. If a contribution or expenditure of public funds to any person results in the use of any part of such funds to advocate, support, or oppose any ballot measure or candidate for public office, the contribution or expenditure is in violation of the bill. Any resident of a political subdivision who wishes to challenge a contribution or expenditure of public funds may bring an action in any circuit court of the political subdivision in which any alleged violation occurred. The political subdivision and the officer, board member, director, administrator, employee, or agent who allegedly violated this section shall be named as party defendants. The petition shall set forth the contribution, expenditure, or contribution and expenditure at issue and the facts that gave rise to a violation and shall pray leave to produce such proof. The court shall consider the petition and evidence, hear arguments, and in its decision determine whether a violation of this section occurred. If the court decides the contribution or expenditure of public funds was a violation, then the court may award attorney fees and the political subdivision shall be subject to a civil penalty in an amount 10 times the amount of the contribution or expenditure or $1,000 whichever is greater or, if the violation involved only use of public resources, then a civil fine not to exceed $1,000 for those offenses that are committed by specified administrators or board members. A first violation of these provisions by specified non-administrative level employees will not be subject to any fine, but a subsequent offense will be punished using the previous categories. Currently, school board elections are held on specified election dates as determined by the designation and location of school districts. Beginning in 2022, this bill requires school board elections for seven-director school districts, urban school districts, and school districts with sub-districts to be held during the November general election. For all existing school boards not holding an initial election the terms will be staggered and four years in length, as specified in the bill. Any member whose term ends in 2021 or any other odd-numbered year will serve until the election in the following even-numbered year. MSTA testified in opposition, see story.
HCB7 (Roeber) requires every superintendent and assistant superintendent to enter into a written employment contract with a school district before beginning employment.
HCS/HB857 (Deaton) This bill defines “association” and “home school” and states that any public school that participates in any activity sponsored by an association must provide home school students, who reside in their attendance area, with the opportunity to participate in these activities in the same manner as the students enrolled in the school. Home school students who participate or seek to participate are subject to the same age limit, fees, insurance, transportation, physical condition, qualifications, event schedules, standards of behavior, and performance requirements as enrolled students. The person who provides home school instruction to the student must certify that the student is proficient in their schoolwork. The association cannot prohibit a home school student from participating (Section 167.045, RSMo). Voted do pass with committee substitute.
Special Committee on Student Accountability
HCS/HB464 (Kelley) modifies current law regarding reading intervention programs. Each local school district and charter school shall have on file a policy for reading intervention plans for any pupils of the district in grades K-4, rather than through grade three. Authority to develop guidelines to assist school districts and charter schools in formulating policies for reading intervention plans is transferred from the State Board of Education to local school districts. Voted do pass with committee substitute.
Special Committee on Student Readiness
HB744 (Riggs) establishes the 21st Century Missouri Education Task Force. The membership of the task force includes three members of the House with two members appointed by the speaker and one appointed by the minority leader, three members of the Senate with two appointed by the president pro tem and one appointed by the minority leader, the governor or his designee, seven members as appointed by the governor, the commissioner of education and the commissioner of higher education or their designees. The mission of the task force includes, but is not limited to, evaluation of current educational process and funding. The task force will make recommendations for legislation as well as submit a report outlining a summary of task force activities to the General Assembly before Aug. 28, 2020. The task force will terminate on Jan. 1, 2021.
SB475 (Cunningham) beginning January 1, 2020, any school district that receives revenue from the income tax on banking institutions, credit institutions, credit unions and savings and loan associations shall report the amount of such revenue received by the district to the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. Using such data, the Department shall determine the amount of revenue the district would have received from the taxes, and remit said amount to each applicable district within 30 days of the end of each calendar year. The amount remitted to the district shall be the total of the revenue received by the district from the tax, times 1.5625, minus the total of the revenue received from the tax. Such payments shall be in addition to payments made under the foundation formula.
SB445 (Arthur) school districts and charter schools shall receive state school funding under the foundation formula for high school students who are taking competency-based credits offered by their school district or charter school. Attendance of a student enrolled in a competency-based credit shall equal 100% of the hours of attendance possible for such credit in the student’s district. If the credit is a semester-long course, completion of a competency-based credit shall be calculated in two increments, 50% and 100%, based on the student’s completion of the assignments and assessments. Distribution of state funding to a school district or charter school at each increment will be equal to 50% of the hours of attendance possible for such credit in a student’s school district or charter school. If the credit is a year-long course, completion of a competency-based credit shall be calculated in four increments, 25%, 50%, 75% and 100% based on the student’s completion of the assignments and assessments. Distribution of state funding to a school district or charter school at each increment will be equal to 25% of the hours of attendance possible for such credit in a student’s school district or charter school.
SB407 (Wallingford) Under current law, pupils ages 3-5 who are eligible for free and reduced price lunch and attend an early childhood education program that is operated by and in a district or by a charter school that has declared itself as a local educational agency providing full-day kindergarten and that meets standards established by the State Board of Education are included in the district’s or charter school’s calculation of average daily attendance. Under this bill, such students shall also be included in the calculation of average daily attendance if they attend an early childhood education program that is under contract with a district or charter school that has declared itself as a local educational agency and that meets standards established by the State Board. The staff members of an early childhood education program are required to undergo background checks. Voted do pass.
Health and Pensions
HB77 (R. Black) Currently, any teacher retired from the Public School Retirement System of Missouri may be employed in a position covered under the Public Education Employee Retirement System (PEERS) without stopping their retirement benefit. Such teacher may earn up to 60 percent of the minimum teacher’s salary and will not contribute to the retirement system or earn creditable service. The employer’s contribution rate will be paid by the hiring employer. If such person is employed in excess of these limitations, the person will not be eligible to receive their retirement allowance for any month the person is employed and such person shall contribute to the retirement system if he or she is in an eligible position. This bill excludes from this provision any person retired and currently receiving a retirement allowance in accordance with Sections 169.010 to 169.141 employed by a public community college. MSTA testified in support. Voted do pass consent.