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Funding increases for education approved in state budget

The legislature finished work on the 2019 state budget, which begins July 1. The budget package outlines roughly $28 billion in state spending.

Highlighting the spending package is a nearly $99 million increase for the foundation formula that funds schools throughout the state. The increase is enough to fully fund the formula. This is the second year in a row that the legislature has fully funded the foundation formula. Transportation funding will also see an increase of $10 million under the new budget.

Other programs that receive funding in HB2002 (Fitzpatrick) which funds the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education as well as K-12 schools, include:

  • $750,000 increase in the Urban Teaching Program, which funds the Teach for America program.
  • $250,000 for a new reading assessment program for K-3 that is designed to help identify students with dyslexia.
  • $250,000 for a STEM pilot program.
  • $25,000 for school board training in rural schools.
  • $125,000 for the Scholars and Fine Arts Academies.
  • $1.5 million for Joplin School disaster relief.
  • $300,000 for school safety grants.
  • $275,000 for the Missouri Charter School Commission, this is a cut of $225,000 from last year.
  • $4.75 million to the public placement fund for districts that receive children due to juvenile court placement. An additional $250,000 was added for districts that have high use of this fund.

Bill changing work after retirement limits passed by legislature

SB892 (Walsh) A Conference Committee report was adopted, and the bill was truly agreed and finally passed. The bill will be sent to the governor for consideration.

The original bill related to retirement for prosecuting attorneys. In the House, the bill was expanded to include provisions for other retirement systems.

A provision was added that would allow a person who is drawing a benefit from the Public School Retirement System (PSRS) to go back to work in a position in a district that is covered under the the Public Education Employee Retirement System of Missouri (PEERS) and make up to 60 percent of the state 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 district.

Currently a PSRS retiree who goes to work in a PEERS position is only allowed to work for 550 hours and make 50 percent of the pay for that position. Any retiree who exceeds that limit would not be eligible to receive their retirement allowance for any month where they are in excess of the limits.

Currently, there are retired teachers who go back to work driving a bus and end up not being able to work the entire school year because they hit the 550-hour limit. Under this proposal, a retired teacher could return in a PEERS position, such as driving a bus and work as much as they wanted as long as they did not make more than $15,000 (the current state minimum teacher’s salary is $25,000).

MSTA supports this language as this bill is an actuarially sound change and in line with MSTA Adopted Resolutions that support a work-after-retirement limitation based on salary and not number of hours worked.

Status of legislation going into the final week of session

Not including the bills that comprise the fiscal year 2019 state budget, the legislature has truly agreed and finally passed over 40 bills. After procedural signatures from the Speaker of the House and the President Pro Tem, they will be sent to the governor for his consideration. There are still bills that will affect teacher retirement, and public education that are making their way through the legislative process as we approach the final week of session.

HB1606 (Gannon) is an omnibus education bill that was heavily amended last week by the Senate. The bill has been passed out of the House Fiscal Review Committee and is awaiting action by the House. The bill will either be adopted by the House or sent to a conference committee. The original version allowed DESE to subsidize the examination fee for first-time takers of the high school equivalency test (HiSET). Many of the provisions added to the bill are non-controversial bills that have been approved in both chambers but have not passed as stand-alone bills. Language currently in the bill includes:

  • Requires notification to parents and students of an electronic data breach.
  • Establishes the Missouri Course Access and Virtual School Program.
  • Changes to Braille instruction.
  • Allowing local school boards to allocate less than the 1 percent to professional development committee, but not less than one half percent.
  • Specifies that DESE shall handle career and technical student organization funds.
  • Allows teachers to count externship hours toward professional development.
  • Requires school districts to establish a policy on student acceleration.
  • Requires school districts to adopt appeal procedures for gifted education programs.
  • Requires high schools to provide information related to careers and salaries to students.
  • Allows a school district to use a calendar based on hours of attendance rather than hours and days of attendance as long as the minimum number of hours is at least 1,044 hours of actual pupil attendance.
  • Allows school districts to establish academic and career counseling programs in cooperation with parents and the local community.
  • Allows schools to fill vacant early childhood education enrollment spots with another student without affecting the schools’ calculation of average daily attendance.
  • Changes the process by which travel hardships are granted to students in certain districts.
  • Requires course materials and instruction relating to human sexuality and sexually transmitted diseases to contain information about sexual harassment, sexual violence, and consent.
  • Would place a non-voting teacher on the State Board of Education.

Bills in conference

SB687 (Sater) allows school districts, by a majority vote of the local school board, to allocate less than 1 percent, but not less than half a percent to the professional development committee when the school district is appropriated less than 25 percent of the allowable costs of providing transportation under the foundation formula. The bill has a six-year sunset. The bill was amended in the House to include language that would allow the Kansas City Public School Board to contract for transportation of high school students for extra-curricular activities. Also included was language that would allow school boards to contract with a municipality to transport high school students. The contract must include an adult supervisor approved by the school board to accompany students. A section of the vehicle must have seating designated solely for use by school children.

The bill has been sent to a conference committee and five members from the House and Senate have been assigned to work out any differences in the bill before it can be voted on by each chamber.

SB743 (Sater), which started out as a non-controversial bill that would allow the treasurer of a school district to only use one sureties when entering into a bond transaction with the state, has turned into a bill that now has a total of 25 amendments.

Some of the amendments have been discussed and passed by both the House and the Senate while others have been added to this bill for the first time. With only a week remaining in the 2018 legislative session, it is unlikely that any amendments that are controversial or being approved for the first time will remain in the bill during the conference committee.

Amendments that have passed both chambers include a provision to place a teacher as a non-voting member on the State Board of Education. This is an MSTA priority and allows the voice of teachers to be heard on important issues that come before the State Board.

Other added amendments that are mostly non-controversial include ones to:

  • Extend the sunset on the requirement that DESE continue to be the fiscal agent for student organizations.
  • Update the definition of school librarian and require DESE to create recognition program of top school library programs in the state.
  • Allow Kansas City schools to pay for public transportation for students involved in extracurricular activities.
  • Change requirement for schools to be in school for a set number of days to a set number of hours.
  • Create an appeal process for students denied a gifted designation and allows for accelerated grade promotion for gifted students.
  • Require the Department of Economic Development to identify occupations and careers where critical shortage exists and provide the information to DESE and school districts. Also allows students to take the ACT WorkKeys assessment in place of the ACT whenever the state provides funding for the ACT test.

There were also some amendments that do not seem to fit on a bill dealing with education. While these may be good amendments on other bills, they don’t seem to be a good fit on this bill. Those amendments include:

  • Changing to the Sunshine Law.
  • Making it illegal for employees of political subdivisions to advocate for issues that are important to the operation of their job during work hours or using their work email address.
  • Increasing the rates of pay for Sheltered Workshops.

And finally, there are amendments that deal with education, but they are amendments MSTA opposes. Those amendments include:

  • A measure to create “innovative schools” in Missouri. This would have negative effects on teacher certification, tenure, retirement and salary schedules.
  • Mandating active intruder training for all schools.
  • Adding to the list of employees who can become a school protection officer as well as the specific bullets and training that these officers must use.

As with most bills that become this large, the bill will be scaled back to one that hopefully will be accepted by both the House and Senate.

HCS/SS/SCS/SB603 (Onder) has been voted out of the House. The bill has been sent back to the Senate where it will be sent to a conference committee for a vote taken on the House version. This bill changes the Missouri Virtual Instruction Program (MoVIP) to “The Missouri Course Access and Virtual School Program” and makes changes to virtual education.

MSTA opposes SB603. Education advocates have worked in good faith with legislative leaders to support the virtual education expansion language in HB1606 (Gannon) to ensure the program is clear and accountable to students, families and school districts.

House bills in the Senate

HB2129 (Cookson) relates to students receiving instruction on organ donation awareness. The bill was brought up for a short debate in the Senate this week. Sen. Romine offered a Senate Substitute for the bill that would allow the local school board to have authority to consider whether organ donation information will be presented and the manner in which it will be presented. The bill was placed on the informal calendar before a vote was taken. It could be brought before the Senate again for further debate.

Senate bills in the House

The following bills have been approved by the Senate but must still be passed by the House. If changes are made, the bills must return to the Senate and either be adopted or sent to a conference to work out differences between the chambers.

SB695 (Wallingford) would add a non-voting teacher representative to the State Board of Education. The bill states that the teacher representative shall attend all board meetings and participate in deliberations. However, the teacher representative shall not have the right to vote on any matter or be counted for purposes of establishing a quorum.

The teacher must be a Missouri resident, certified to teach, and have at least five years of teaching experience, be employed full time as a teacher in the state and not on leave. The teacher must also have the written support from their local school board before being appointed.

The teacher representative’s term shall be for four years and subsequent appointments shall be made in rotation from each Congressional District, beginning with the First Congressional District and continuing in numerical order. In the event of a vacancy, the governor shall appoint a replacement by and with the advice and consent of the Senate. The bill also includes a sunset date of Aug. 28, 2026, unless renewed by the legislature.

Currently, the board is made up of eight citizens appointed by the governor and confirmed by the Senate. Members serve staggered, eight-year terms so that one term expires each year. No more than four members of the board may belong to the same political party. No more than one member of the board may reside in the same county or Congressional district. When terms expire, members continue to serve until being replaced or reappointed.

SB582 (Walsh) specifies that school districts shall notify the parent or legal guardian of an affected student in the event of a breach of data maintained in an electronic form that includes personal information of a student. The notification must also be sent to DESE.