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Suicide prevention and awareness bills advance in both chambers

Bills in both the House and Senate are moving through the process that would bring more attention and support to students and education professionals regarding suicide prevention and awareness.   

The House Elementary and Secondary Education Committee combined HB1820 (Kelley) & HB1470 (Appelbaum) “Jason Flatt/Avery Reine Cantor Act” and voted the bills out of committee. The legislation would allow for two hours of professional development regarding suicide prevention.  The training may be completed in-person or through self-review of suicide prevention materials.  SB787 (Sater) was heard in the Senate Education Committee and includes a section of HB1820 & 1470 that would require public schools to list the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, The Crisis Text Line and any applicable local suicide prevention hotline on student identification cards for grades seven through 12, as well as any public higher education institution.     

MSTA testified in support of these bills. MSTA resolutions support providing student programs which appropriately support students in the aftermath of student suicide, in suicide prevention, and identification/awareness of the signs of suicide.  

Rep. Swan receives MSTA Friend of Education Award

Each year in conjunction with the MSTA Annual Convention, the MSTA Education Policy Committee takes nominations for the MSTA Friend of Education Award.  Nominations may be submitted online or at open hearings. The committee then uses a matrix of community involvement, voting record and leadership to score candidates.

During the Southeast Region Capitol Visit this week, Rep. Kathy Swan of Cape Girardeau was awarded the MSTA Friend of Education Award. Swan is completing her final term in the House.  She is a small business owner with a Bachelor of Science degree in nursing from Southeast Missouri State University.  She currently serves on the House Elementary and Secondary Education Committee, which she formerly led as chair, as well as the House Budget Committee and is the current chair of the House Workforce Development committee.  Swan supports teachers, public education and Missouri communities, ensuring the best future for the families in her district and around the state. Her advocacy and passion for education is highlighted by her ability to ensure all voices are heard on issues, and her involvement in passing legislation advancing early childhood education to her service as a former chair of the Missouri Coordinating Board for Higher Education and current efforts to ensure Missouri has the trained workforce to meet the needs of the future.

In addition to her award, the MSTA Legislative Impact Committee announced the endorsement of Rep. Kathy Swan in her race for the 27th Senate district in August.



Recovery charter school expansion bill presented

HB1487 (Rehder) would allow a charter high school to operate in the Kansas City School District that would serve students in recovery from substance use disorder or dependency.  The bill would allow the school to enroll students from across the state, as well as students in other states.

Under current law, there is no prohibition on a charter school electing to open as a recovery charter school.  The largest change in the legislation is the ability of the school to open enroll students and receive funding from their home district school.   

In addition to enrolling students based on substance abuse, the charter may enroll students recovering from co-occurring disorders such as anxiety, depression, and attention hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).  The bill does not require students seeking to attend the charter school to verify that they are suffering from a substance use disorder or substance dependency.  Further gaps in accountability fail to require these schools to provide additional counseling or specialized instruction to ensure students receive the needed support to address addiction and other mental health needs.   

Missouri’s public schools provide services to all students.  Teachers, administrators and support staff work hard to provide programs that support students struggling with substance use disorders and substance dependency.   

Similar legislation in the Senate is part of the ongoing MSTA call to action on charter school expansion SB525 (Emery) and SB649 (Eigel) in the Senate.  Also awaiting debate in the Senate is SB581 (Cierpiot) that would create a new $50 million tax credit voucher. These bills could come up for debate very soon in the Senate.  MSTA remains opposed to charter school expansion that doesn’t ensure charter schools are governed by locally elected school boards. Make your voice heard and contact your State Senator now if you haven’t already. There is still time to reach out to your elected officials as a professional educator. MSTA Rapid Response allows you to quickly find and contact your elected Senator.

House works on education bills

This week the House debated several education-related bills, sending one to the Senate.   

HB1903 (Shields) allows a school district that enters into an agreement with another district to share a superintendent to receive an additional $30,000 per year in state aid for up to five years. The bill directs districts to spend the additional compensation and half of the savings from having a full-time superintendent on teacher salaries or counseling services.

It should be noted that this is not a requirement for districts, and there might be other ways that districts can work together in order to be more efficient and put more money into improving teachers’ salaries, and services for students.

Earlier this year the State Board of Education set as one of their legislative priorities to encourage school districts to share services in order to become more efficient.  This bill is in response to this priority.  It will need another vote in the House before it can go through the legislative process in the Senate.

The House also gave approval to HB1540 (Basye) that prevents any public school districts and charter schools from prohibiting a parent or guardian from audio recording any meeting held under the Federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) or a Section 504 plan meeting.

During the floor debate, multiple amendments were made. One amendment was added that would require school districts and charter schools to establish a state-approved gifted program if 3 percent or more of the students are determined to be gifted by July 1, 2022. By July 1, 2022, districts and charter schools with average daily attendance of more than 350 students are required to have a teacher certificated to teach gifted education, any teacher providing gifted instruction without a gifted-teaching certificate must participate in six hours per year of professional development regarding gifted services.

A second amendment would establish a process for the annexation of two adjacent special school districts. If requested by a petition, signed by the specified number of voters from the school district proposing the annexation, the school board of the district shall submit the question to the voters of the district and would be passed by a majority vote.  This amendment is designed to give the St. Louis Public Schools the ability to vote to join the Special School District in St. Louis County.

The final amendment added would alter the calculation for reimbursements to school districts for the cost of special education for high-needs children.  Currently, 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. This bill states that any money reimbursed to a school district with 500 or less students, is excluded from such calculation.  The bill was read a third time and passed; it has now been sent to the Senate.   

The final education-related bill approved by the House was HB1568 (Bailey) that defines “restraint” and “seclusion” and requires school districts, charter schools, or publicly contracted private providers to include a policy to prohibit the use of restraint and seclusion, for any purpose other than situations or conditions in which there is imminent danger of physical harm to self or others.

Any incident requiring restraint or seclusion shall be monitored by school personnel with written observation. The House will have one additional vote before it is sent to the Senate.

New state board member appointed

When the State Board of Education meets next week, it will officially have a new member after the Senate approved the appointment of Pamela Westbrooks-Hodge.

Westbrooks-Hodge joins the State Board of Education after serving as a member of the Joint Executive Governing Board at Normandy Schools Collaborative since December 2015.

“Pamela’s time on the board in Normandy has given her a front-row seat to the great work happening in our public schools, the challenges they’re currently facing and how the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) supports their efforts,” said Commissioner Dr. Margie Vandeven. “That experience makes Pamela such a valuable addition to our State Board of Education. We are so looking forward to the insight she will bring to our discussions.”

Westbrooks-Hodge is a graduate of Normandy High School. She earned a bachelor’s degree in finance from Northwest Missouri State University, then her master’s degree in business administration from the University of Missouri-St. Louis. She works for Edward Jones, leading information systems audit. She holds certifications in financial, operational and information systems auditing and has considerable expertise in strategy formulation and execution and talent development. She previously worked for Express Scripts, Anheuser-Busch and Bank of America in senior governance, risk and compliance roles.

Westbrooks-Hodge replaced Mike Jones who has served on the State Board of Education for nine years. His term expired in July 2018, and he has since been serving at the pleasure of the governor until a replacement was named.

Bill Summaries


Elementary and Secondary Education

HB1487 (Rehder) would allow charter schools that are designated as recovery charter schools to open enroll students from any Missouri school district or other state.  See story for more information.

HB2310 (Wiemann) establishes open enrollment transfer procedures for nonresident districts for students in public schools.  MSTA testified in opposition.

HB2491 (Christofanelli) modifies the laws relating to the virtual school program. MSTA testified in opposition.

Special Committee on Student Accountability

Executive Session

HB1998 (Morse) designates May 10 as School Bus Drivers’ Appreciation Day in Missouri. Voted do pass.   



SB787 (Sater) requires certain schools to print the number for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline on student ID cards. See earlier story. MSTA testified in support. 

SB875 (Emery) requires public school schools to allow home school students to participate in any event or activity offered by a public school in the school district in which the student resides.

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