It happens every year near the end of the legislative session, a committee creates an omnibus bill in order to try and include as many bills as possible into one piece of legislation in order to get them to the governor’s desk. This year the House Elementary and Secondary Committee is using SB218 (Hoskins) as the vehicle to try and pass several other bills that have not moved so far this session.
SB218 would require DESE to develop a pilot program, beginning in the 2020-2021 school year, to provide for agricultural education in elementary schools in the state. A provision was added in the Senate that establishes a voluntary pilot program to provide for mental and emotional health education in elementary schools in the state.
Provisions added to the bill in the House Committee include:
HB112 (Sommer) requires school districts to establish a state-approved gifted program if 3% or more of the students are determined to be gifted. Districts with average daily attendance of 350 or fewer students are not required to have a teacher certificated to teach gifted education, but any teacher providing gifted instruction without a gifted-teaching certificate must participate in six hours per year of professional development regarding gifted services.
HB161 (Knight) districts would not be allowed to start the school year prior to 14 days before Labor Day.
HB485 (Dogan) requires that the State Board of Education adopt modified accreditation standards for special school districts.
HB581 (Roeber) restricts a political subdivision from targeting a charter school with an ordinance or policy that limits the acquisition or use of property by a charter school or for educational purposes.
HB594 (Swan) expands the eligibility of children between the age of 3 and 5 to qualify for a district’s or charter school’s calculation of average daily attendance if they attend an early childhood education program under contract with a school.
HB604 (Henderson) creates the School Turnaround Act to help struggling schools.
HB606 (Basye) authorizes school boards to contract with municipalities to transport high school children for a primary bus route.
HB1212 (Stacy) modifies the section of law known as “Bryce’s Law” by changing from DESE to the office of the State Treasurer and renews the program that is set to terminate.
SB349 (O’Laughlin) modifies current law regarding reading success plans, formerly known as Reading Intervention programs. Each local school district and charter school shall have on file a policy for reading success plans for any pupils of the district in grades kindergarten through four, rather than through grade three.
SB465 (Burlison) requires DESE to not limit the reimbursement rate to school districts for early learning program facility lease agreements for any lease agreement entered into by a school district before March 2, 2015.
The omnibus education bill would need to be approved by the House and then the Senate could accept the changes made to the bill or work out any differences between the two versions of the bill in a conference committee made up of members of both chambers.
Sen. Andrew Koenig attempted to include the Empowerment Scholarship Account program to one of Gov. Parson’s priority bills, HB225 (Swan). Creation of the voucher program has been a priority of the Conservative Caucus, a six-member group of Republicans in the Senate. The proposed language is similar to SB160 (Koenig) and would create a new $25 million tax credit voucher program for students in counties with a charter form of government or cities with a population over 30,000. The proposal would expand a seven-page bill to 66 pages and changes the subject from workforce incentive grants to alternative education options for students. The new language also includes past versions of bills addressing student transfers from unaccredited schools.
HB225 establishes the Fast-Track Workforce Incentive Grant program for Missouri citizens to attend an approved Missouri postsecondary institution of their choice. To be eligible, a student must meet certain criteria, including having an adjusted gross income of less than $80,000 if the taxpayer’s filing status is married filing combined, or $40,000 for all other taxpayers. In addition, such student must be at least 25 years old, or has not been enrolled in an educational program for the prior two academic years. Grant funding may be renewed, but the student must continue to meet the eligibility requirements and must demonstrate a grade-point average of 2.5 on a 4.0 scale. The Coordinating Board for Higher Education must designate eligible programs of study by Jan. 1, 2020. The eligible programs must be reviewed and updated by the Coordinating Board annually.
The new tax credit voucher program that was proposed on the bill would be created without any real accountability or sunset provision. The State Treasurer would oversee non-governmental organizations that would issue the tax credits. The language includes restrictions on DESE from overseeing how the monies are spent.
MSTA remains opposed to creating a new unchecked runaway voucher tax credit program. The proposed language continues to lack real accountability for the schools that students could enroll in while receiving state tax incentives. This proposal creates a diversion of education funds and lack of accountability to Missouri taxpayers. Missouri’s state revenues continue to face serious problems due to tax credit programs that are allowed to grow unchecked. This tax credit program is yet another budget buster that lacks basic controls in both cost and form. MSTA is opposed to legislation that would give tax credits for scholarships, tuition or vouchers to private schools or voucher plans that would divert public funds to pay for private school tuition.
HB225 was withdrawn from debate and placed back on the Senate calendar where it could again be considered by the Senate with the voucher language still pending.
The Senate Education Committee heard HB462 (Shields) that would create certified teacher externships. The legislation would allow community businesses to further partner with local school districts and allow teachers to have hands-on learning experiences with industry in their community. The bill would require the Department of Economic Development and DESE to adopt requirements for teacher externships.
The Department of Economic Development and DESE would also adopt an equivalency schedule that would allow the externship to be considered for salary increases similar to graduate-level coursework on a district salary schedule. The bill would sunset after five years.
The Senate Education Committee heard a bill that could help school districts provide instruction to students when school is not in session because of poor weather or illness.
HB281 & 570 (Kelley & Ruth) allows a district to use an alternative instruction plan approved by DESE for up to 36 hours for classes that would normally be canceled due to inclement weather or a contagious disease outbreak.
The bill outlines what is expected to be part of a plan that would be approved by DESE, including:
- The way the district intends to strengthen and reinforce instructional content while supporting student learning outside the classroom environment;
- The process the district intends to use to communicate to students and parents the decision to implement alternative methods of instruction on any day of a closure;
- The manner in which the district intends to communicate the purpose and expectations for a day in which alternative methods of instruction will be implemented to students and parents;
- The assignments and materials to be used within the district for days in which alternative methods of instruction will be implemented to effectively facilitate teaching and support learning for the benefit of the students;
- The way student attendance will be determined for a day in which alternative methods of instruction will be implemented. The method chosen shall be linked to completion of lessons and activities;
- The instructional methods, which shall include instruction through electronic means and instruction through other means for students who have no access to internet services or a computer;
- Instructional plans for students with individualized education programs; and
- The role and responsibility of certified personnel to be available to communicate with students.
MSTA testified in support. This year at the MSTA Assembly of Delegates a resolution was approved to support allowing districts to voluntarily use an alternative method of instruction.
Judiciary Civil & Criminal Jurisprudence
HB745 (Ruth) requires courts to notify school administrators of any change in a child’s custody within one business day of the change, and for the school to acknowledge the change notification within one business day. The bill makes the notification part of the court order and specifies methods for transmission of the notice for certain types of custody changes.
HB606 (Basye) modifies criminal background checks of school bus drivers to include those drivers employed by municipalities or any other entity under contract with a school district. The bill authorizes school boards to contract with municipalities to transport high school children for a primary bus route. The contract shall require the presence of an adult supervisor approved by the school board on any municipal vehicle transporting school children. While transporting school children, municipal vehicles shall include seating designated solely for school children. Additional transportation services may be contracted, as outlined in the bill, in any urban district containing the greater part of the population of a city which has more than 300,000 inhabitants; this subsection currently applies to Kansas City. Additionally, the bill prohibits districts from the use of self-driving or autonomous school buses for transportation of students.
HB462 (Shields) provides a definition for teacher externship. The Department of Economic Development and DESE will adopt requirements for teacher externships along with an equivalency schedule to allow externship hours to be considered for increases similar to graduate-level coursework on the salary schedule for districts before July 1, 2020. The provisions of the bill shall sunset five years after its effective date. See earlier story.
HB281 (Kelley) Beginning with the 2020-21 school year, this bill allows a district to use an alternative instruction plan approved by DESE for up to 36 hours due to inclement weather. See earlier story.
HB739 (Miller) adds school personnel, contractors, and volunteers that establish relationships through a school or school activity to the definition of those responsible for the care, custody, and control of a child for certain sections of statutes relating to child abuse as outlined in the bill. The legislation requires full disclosure between school districts about a former employee when requested, specifically regarding any confirmed violation of a board policy related to abusive behavior toward a student. The bill increases the training hours for initial school board members from 16 to 18 hours and 30 minutes, and further requires that the training include two hours and 30 minutes of sexual harassment training. Returning board members must take at least one hour of training annually. The bill defines “screened volunteer” and requires a criminal background check to be conducted on any screened volunteer before they are left alone with a student or have access to student records. This bill defines “sexual harassment” and requires that schools provide age-appropriate sexual harassment training to students in grades six and up. The training will be developed by DESE.
Elementary and Secondary Education
HB577 (Dohrman) requires that schools, beginning in the 2020-21 school year and continuing thereafter, will display the national motto of the United States, “In God We Trust” in a prominent location.
HB54 (Bangert) requires school districts to provide instruction in cursive writing by the end of the fifth grade, including a proficiency test of competency in reading and writing cursive.
SB218 (Hoskins) includes various bills relating to education. See earlier story. Voted do pass.