Each legislative session is unique for a number of reasons, but the second session of the 100th General Assembly will go down in the history books.
With a State of Emergency due to coronavirus declared by Gov. Mike Parson, the legislature met sparingly between March 12 and April 27. The House and Senate did meet for a short time on April 7 and 8 to approve the supplemental budget for the 2020 fiscal year. The supplemental budget was necessary to pass in order to give the state agencies the authority to spend federal money associated with fighting the coronavirus.
With a constitutional deadline for passing a budget of May 8, the legislative leaders decided to return the Capitol on April 27 to pass the budget and finish out the legislative session. Precautions were put in place to help with social distancing. The public was discouraged from coming to the Capitol in order to keep crowds down. Committee hearings in both the House and Senate were put online, so those monitoring the bills could watch and know what was happening without having to enter the Capitol.
Returning to the Capitol for such a short period and having so many issues individual members wanted to pass made for an interesting end to the session as numerous bills were loaded up with multiple provisions. Legislators and lobbyists had a difficult time keeping track of which provisions were in each bill.
Two omnibus education bills were crafted, one in the House and one in the Senate, but ultimately the bills were not brought up on the floor for debate. HB1540 (Bayse) which started as a bill to allow recordings of IEP meetings, grew to include as many as 20 different provisions dealing with education. MSTA sent out a rapid response opposing HB1540, and members voices were heard as over 1,700 emails were sent to senators. HB1540, which included a provision to take away local control when it comes to teaching reading, was never brought to the floor.
In the House, SB528 (Cunningham) ended up being the omnibus education bill. When the bill passed the Senate, it only included a provision to require any funds in excess of the funds necessary to fully fund the foundation formula would be transferred to help pay for transportation costs for schools. The House Education Committee added legislation from many different committees, bills that were not given public hearings, and legislation that has never been in front of the House Elementary and Secondary Education Committee. Included in the bill were harmful provisions that would change charter school funding, and a massive expansion of private virtual education paid for by Missouri taxpayers. Many provisions included in the bill were opposed by MSTA and other public education advocates.
It is difficult to pass bills, but very difficult to pass bills that include so many different provisions, especially when the changes are controversial. This bill was never debated by the House.
Despite ending the 2020 legislative session in the middle of a pandemic, and all the issues that educators are dealing with schools shutting down and not knowing what will happen in the fall, the legislature did not harm public education.
The COVID-19 pandemic continues to affect school districts across the state, with many questions that must be addressed. The State Board of Education acted this week to allow schools more flexibility in their ability to provide quality education to students.
The board voted to give the Commissioner of Education temporary authority to decide whether districts can start the school year earlier this fall. A new state law allows districts to start no earlier than 14 days prior to Labor Day unless the State Board of Education waives the regulation. The board approved a waiver system allowing schools interested in starting earlier if they meet three criteria established by the board. The local school board must get input by holding a public hearing, document the instructional purpose for starting earlier and explain how starting earlier would help reduce the spread of the coronavirus.
The board also voted to give the commissioner the ability to lift a state regulation regarding summer school. Currently, summer school must last a minimum of 120 hours. If a school requests a waiver from this requirement, the district will have to demonstrate why doing so is in the best interest of the students.
Last month, MSTA Legislative Impact Committee surveys were sent to all candidates for office in the Missouri House and Senate. The Impact Committee works to help recruit, elect and retain lawmakers who will fight for public education in the Missouri legislature. The MSTA Impact Committee is a critical tool for advancing this goal.
The Impact Committee is comprised of 10 members, one from each of MSTA’s regions. Each committee member serves as a resource for the candidates from their region. The committee may choose to support candidates in a variety of ways, including campaign contributions. Candidates are evaluated based on answers on a candidate survey, their life experience, and any previous voting records.
The PAC is funded through voluntary contributions from members, CTAs and MSTA regions. Keep an eye out over the summer for more information about MSTA Impact endorsed candidates in your area.
Have you been thinking about accepting a leadership position in your CTA? Now is the perfect time to dip your toes in because MSTA’s annual Leadership Conference –a virtual event July 21 – is open to all MSTA members! Look for details and registration information soon at leadership.msta.org. You can participate in a variety of sessions to help yourself grow as a leader and an educator.