Open Enrollment Bill Heard and Passed in Senate Committee
The Senate Education and Workforce Development Committee held a hearing on HB253 (Pollitt) on Tuesday, then met a second time on Thursday and voted the bill out of committee do pass. The bill was then placed on the Senate calendar and could come up for debate as soon as next week. MSTA testified in opposition to the bill.
Open enrollment will negatively impact teachers, students and communities across the state, leading to school consolidation, the closing of schools and limiting the ability of students to receive a quality and robust education in their local community.
MSTA opposes HB253 based on MSTA Adopted Resolutions, with the following concerns:
School Consolidation: open enrollment will lead to school consolidation; this legislation could leave districts unable to support all students in the community. Students remaining in community schools that have been consolidated will be forced to endure longer bus rides while districts that remain open will struggle to maintain the educational programs they already offer such as FFA, choir, band and athletic programs. In many Missouri communities, these kinds of tough decisions have already been made due to a lack of funding and will increase the difficulty of recruiting and retaining education staff.
Special Education: allows districts to deny students based on special education status if the transfer district determines they cannot meet the special education student’s needs, allowing districts to discriminate against special needs students.
Financial Implications/anti-collaboration: will pit schools against one another to compete for students and the funding associated with them. Funding that would normally go toward student learning would be spent on recruiting students and competing with neighboring districts. Creates competition for the sake of competition, districts are not in the same situations are forced to devote time and treasure to recruiting students while still attempting to provide a quality education to all the students that remain in the district.
Increased state influence: mandates that schools adopt a model policy developed by DESE or “another entity skilled in policy development” to determine the number of transfers available. This policy must be adopted by schools even if they decide not to participate in the open enrollment program.
MSTA opposes legislative actions involving the concept of inter-district choice and open enrollment.
Over the past 3 months, thousands of MSTA members have reached out to legislators via email, asking them to oppose HB253. Please share your opposition to this legislation with members of your community and encourage them to call their State Senator and let them know they also oppose HB253. https://www.senate.mo.gov/legislookup/default
Teacher Recruitment and Retention Package Passed by House
The House passed and sent to the Senate a bill that is intended to help address teacher recruitment and retention issues. HB497 (E. Lewis) would raise Missouri’s minimum teacher salary to $38,000 and the master’s plus ten minimum to $46,000 beginning in the 2024-25 school year. The Teacher Baseline Salary Grant Fund would be codified in law in the bill and would keep the program in place until the 2027-28 school year. This language is the same as what was placed in the state budget to help districts cover the costs of raising the minimum salary. 70% of the cost to raise the minimum teacher salary would come from the fund and 30% would come from local funds. Part of the bill aimed to address teacher recruitment would eliminate the entry level tests required for admittance into teacher preparation programs. To increase funding for public education, HB497 also includes language that would allow for growth of the state adequacy target in the foundation formula.
HB497 includes underlying language that would create a new scholarship for teacher recruitment. The bill modifies the Urban Flight and Rural Needs scholarships. The new scholarship is designed to support those pursuing teaching and education committed to teaching at-risk students at a Missouri public school. The scholarship would also cover those who are pursuing certificated teaching positions serving students who are blind or deaf.
Other items that were included in the bill include allowing school districts to identify hard-to-staff schools and hard-to-staff subject areas and designate a higher placement on the salary schedule when hiring such teachers. PSRS/PEERS work after retirement changes have been included that are in several other bills making their way through the legislative process, including a 2.55% benefit factor for 32 or more years of PSRS service, extending the term of teacher critical shortage work after retirement to a maximum of four years, and modifying the earnings limit for a PSRS retiree that goes back to work in a PEERS position. HB497 would eliminate the requirement that schools using the Rap Back program for notifications of law violations must mandate all employees to undergo an additional fingerprint background check every six years.
The bill also includes sections relating to other school issues such as requiring schools to have bleeding control kits available in high-traffic areas of schools, as well as allow school staff other than teachers and administrators to serve as school protection officers if approved by the locally elected school board. The bill would include a state mandate to teach cursive writing, and create a new state program that would create an extended learning policy that would allow students to receive credit for participation in out-of-classroom learning experiences as approved by the State Board of Education, a school board, or a charter school. Other requirements in the bill require DESE to convene a work group to develop academic performance standards for the half credit course in personal finance required for high school graduation. HB497 is now in the Senate where it will be assigned to a committee for a hearing then, hopefully, approved by the full Senate.
Blue Ribbon Committee Enters Phase Two
The Missouri State Board of Education’s Blue Ribbon Commission studying teacher recruitment and retention challenges in Missouri is reconvening and moving on to its second phase of work: addressing issues related to climate and culture in schools. The Commission will issue a second report on improving working conditions that impact the educator workforce, which can be addressed alongside salary.
Members of the Commission were given an issue brief relating to school climate and culture prepared by the Hunt Institute. Included in the first issue brief were results from the MSTA 2021 Missouri Educator Wellness Survey, which showed that 51% of teachers who responded considered leaving the education profession often or very often and only 26% were either quite or extremely satisfied in their jobs. The survey also found that the top three factors of stress for teachers were student behaviors, student motivation and substitute shortages.
The Commission will meet four times, twice virtually and twice in person, before delivering a phase two report to the board at the August 15, 2023 meeting.
Senate Committee Approves Bill to Increase Formula Funding
This week, the Senate Education and Workforce Development Committee gave approval to a bill that is designed to increase funding to schools by making changes to the foundation formula. SB17 (Arthur) would remove the cap that is in place on the growth of the State Adequacy Target (SAT). There is currently a 5% cap on the growth of the SAT. This act increases the percentage of the growth cap to 10%.
This bill also modifies the definition of "weighted average daily attendance" as used in the funding formula by multiplying .25 by the higher of the current law definition of free and reduced-price lunch pupil count that exceeds the free and reduced-price lunch threshold, increasing the formula calculation. The current SAT is $6,375 and has been held at that amount for a few years. This bill would result in an SAT of $6,679 and would create an estimated additional $284,198,236 in funding for public education.
Senate Retirement Bill Heard in House Pensions Committee
A bill to improve retirement benefits for teachers wanting to work longer and help districts use retirees to help fill staffing shortages has taken another step toward passage. SB75 (Black) was heard this week in the House Pensions Committee. The bill passed the Senate with the following provisions:
* 2.55 retirement benefit factor for working 32 or more years of service.
* Modifying the current annual earnings limit for any retired member of PSRS employed in a position covered under the Public Education Employee Retirement System of Missouri (PEERS) without stopping their retirement benefit.
* Increasing the time that a PSRS or PEERS retiree can go back to work under critical shortage from 3 years to 4 years.
* Increasing the number of people eligible to work under critical shortages from up to 5 to the greater of 5 or 1% of the staff of the district. This would help larger districts be allowed to have more teachers working under the critical shortage law.
* A member who elected to receive reduced monthly payments on or before September 1, 2015, with his or her same-sex domestic partner as the nominated beneficiary may have the retirement allowance increased to the amount he or she would have received if he or she had not elected to receive reduced payments.
This bill does not have a cost to the PSRS/PEERS system, in fact, it is a cost savings to the system. MSTA testified in support of the bill based on MSTA Adopted Resolutions. The next step for this bill will be a vote of the Pensions Committee so it can be debated by the full house.
House Elementary and Secondary Education Committee
HB492 (Murphy) requires the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education to establish a “Media Literacy and Critical Thinking" pilot program for the 2024-25 and 2025-26 school years. This would include concepts such as: an individual's ability to access, analyze, evaluate, and participate with all forms of media, including news in print and social media content, and recognize bias and stereotypes in media, as well as internet safety. Between five and seven diverse schools will be selected by the department to participate in the pilot program as specified in the bill. Pilot program schools will provide a report to the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education before August 1, 2026. Before January 1, 2027, DESE will compile and submit a summary report to the General Assembly.
HB1163 (Peters) requires schools to implement parental consent procedures for students with an Individualized Education Program (IEP). Written parental consent shall be obtained and maintained for initial placement, annual placement, or other revisions to a student's IEP as outlined in the bill.
HB821 (Knight), HB843 (Francis), HB901 (Pollitt), HB946 (Henderson) creates the “Education Stabilization Fund” that the legislature may place excess revenue. In years with decreased revenue where the foundation formula may be at risk of not being fully funded, the legislature may use money from the fund to ensure the formula is fully funded.
In HB350 (Christofanelli), the underlying bill expands the award amount for certain students participating in the MOScholar voucher program. The committee substitute includes expanding Missouri’s Pre-K offering, allowing the MOScholar voucher program to be used for pre-K students. Under the voucher program passed in 2021, the program began with a cap of $25 million and could grow with inflation adjustments up to $50 million. The bill would eliminate the escalator on the voucher program and immediately move the limit to $50 million. Voted do pass with substitute.
HB633 (Kelley) modifies the current required training that school employees must receive annually. The bill requires that newly hired employees receive instruction on a variety of topics after being hired, including: school discipline, seclusion and restraint, school bullying, employee-student communications, mandatory reporting, dyslexia and related disorders, youth suicide awareness and prevention, and active shooter and intruder response training. All other employees may be provided with training and education as determined by the school district based on the specific needs of the district and employee instead of annually. Voted do pass with substitute.
SB363 (Roberts) would amend the law so that that any school board vacancy that occurs in a metropolitan school board outside of the normal election cycle will be filled by appointment by the board for the remainder of the term. Voted do pass.
SB381 (Thompson Rehder) defines health and family education and requires that the current 1/2 credit hour of health education be renamed as "Health and Family Education" for the 2023-24 school year and all subsequent school years. The bill requires that the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) convene a work group to develop academic performance standards relating to health and family education. The work group must include educators, representatives from DESE, and nonprofit organizations with a focus on public health, parenting, and social services. The State Board of Education is required to adopt and implement the health and family education performance standards for the 2024-25 school year. Voted do pass.
HB827 (Christofanelli) modifies law relating to students in virtual education. The bill requires host school districts to adopt enrollment policies regarding student enrollment and allows virtual schools to mutually agree with a resident school district on services that the district might offer including possible financial reimbursements for those services. Voted do pass.
SB545 (Rowden) is substantially similar to HB827. Voted do pass.
SB166 (Carter) would prohibit any city or county from dictating or interfering with the curriculum, concepts, topics or practices taught by any public, private or home school within the boundaries of the city or county. Also, no city or county would be allowed to dictate or interfere with the employment decisions or policies of public, private or home schools. Voted do pass.