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House Committee Passes FY24 Budget  

The House Budget Committee passed out their version of the fiscal year 2024 state operating budget, making many modifications to the plan outlined by the Governor in his state of the state address.  

In House Bill 2, the budget bill to fund public education and other programs under the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, there were substantial changes made to the proposed expansion of pre-K funding.  

Under the House committee plan, the foundation formula to fund schools would remain fully funded at over $3.6 billion. For a second year in a row, there will also be full funding for K-12 transportation, representing over $340 million. When the legislature provided increased funding for student transportation in the current year budget, they stated that it would be made whole with one time money, but the legislature has again committed to provide state funds for next year.  

The House Budget Committee also included additional money for teacher recruitment and retention. The baseline educator salary grant proposal put in place last year is again funded with $21 million. This optional 70% state funded, 30% local funded grant program allows districts to apply to receive a state supported supplement to increase the minimum teacher salary to $38,000. The career ladder program will have increased funding with the committee approving $69 million for the revamped program. The committee based this increase on legislation passed last session that lowered the years in education to participate in the program, as well as the change in state support from 40% state funded to 60% state funded. Other items that received funding include the urban flight and rural needs scholarship as well as grants for grow your own programs. The budget also includes $1.3 million for a statewide DESE controlled curriculum portal and over $50 million for school safety grants. 

In his state of the state address, Gov. Parson proposed increasing funding to expand early childhood education services to 50% of all families with pre-K students to enable them to enroll in programs in their local districts at no cost. The funding for this proposal would cost $56 million and was eliminated by the committee substitute. The committee also eliminated $18 million in funding for supporting professional development for social and emotional learning and character education initiatives.  

The budget will now move to the House floor for debate before being sent to the Senate for their consideration. The budget must be truly agreed and finally passed by May 5. 

Senate Debates Bill to Restore Local Control to School Districts 

This week, the Senate brought up SB85 (Carter) for debate but ultimately placed the bill back on the calendar without taking a vote. SB85 would create a new local control school district designation that would exempt districts from certain assessment, data reporting, and performance reporting requirements. The bill would also modify laws relating to the statewide assessment system, school accountability report cards, the powers and duties of the State Board of Education, and the designation of option districts. 

The bill would repeal current law that authorizes the State Board of Education to develop a statewide assessment system and a standardized assessment instrument based on academic performance standards. Instead, the State Board would develop an assessment system that satisfies the requirements of federal law, and the State Board would use the results of the assessments only for the purpose of compliance with federal law. The State Board would ensure that standardized assessments are administered to the minimum extent necessary to comply with federal law. The State Board would not be allowed to use assessment results to classify school districts and charter schools. 

SB85 would allow school districts and charter schools to create local assessments that reflect statewide academic standards. Local assessments and assessment systems would be developed by teachers and school administrators working individually, in grade teams, in discipline teams, and with the community. 

The act repeals provisions of law relating to the State Board's authority to suggest criteria for a school to demonstrate that its students learn the knowledge, skills, and competencies measured by the statewide assessment system at exemplary levels. The act further repeals provisions relating to "Outstanding School Waivers" that exempt certain schools from meeting requirements related to the authority of the State Board to classify school districts. 

The bill would repeal law authorizing the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education to produce a school accountability report card for each public school district, public school building, and charter school in the state. Under the bill, districts and charter schools would be required to report certain accountability data annually to parents, community members, and the media. 

SB85 would require the State Board of Education to identify a minimum of two national school accreditation agencies from which any district may seek to obtain accreditation. Many states don’t accredit schools but allow that function to be carried out by organizations that specialize on accreditation. Any district accredited by at least one of these agencies would be considered to be fully accredited for all legal purposes. A district that is accredited by one of these agencies would not be subject to the State Board's authority to classify the public schools of the state, establish requirements for the schools of each class, and formulate rules governing the inspection and accreditation of schools. The bill also specifies that no statewide assessment data could be used in determining State Board classification. 

SB85 would allow any public school district or charter school to become designated as a local control school district by certifying to the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education in writing that it intends to be designated as a local control school district. A local control school district would not be required to participate in the Missouri school improvement program; annual performance reviews conducted by the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education; or the maintaining of a school improvement plan in any format provided by or approved by the Department. A local control school district would not be assigned an accreditation classification by the State Board of Education but would be considered as accredited for all legal purposes. 

A local control school district will have the ability to develop and implement a local assessment system. The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education would not be allowed to advise or incentivize the adoption of any curriculum resources, software programs, or assessments purchased from commercial vendors. Assessment items would not be developed from materials provided to the district or teachers by entities that have not been formally reviewed and adopted by the district's board of education. Local control school districts may form a consortium without the approval of the State Board of Education for the purpose of developing, reporting, or purchasing assessments in their district assessment plans. Local control school districts would be required to store all district data on servers secured according to industry standards. A local control school district may share only aggregated data, and not any personally identifiable information, with any external parties, including public agencies and private vendors. 

A local control school district would continue to receive state funding through the foundation formula. A local control school district may apply for state and federal grants and must be considered for such grants without prejudice or penalty. 

SB85 could be brought up again for debate later during the legislative session. 

Senate Committee Gives Approval to Several Bills 

The Senate Education and Workforce Development Committee met this week and gave approval to the following bills: 

SB226 (Schroer) authorizes a taxpayer to claim a tax credit in an amount equal to 100% of tuition costs paid by the taxpayer in a tax year for the attendance of one or more of the taxpayer's dependent children at one or more private schools or public schools located outside of the school district in which the taxpayer resides. 

The tax credit authorized by this act would be refundable, but could not be transferred, sold, or otherwise conveyed. 

SB411 (B. Brown) started as a bill that provides that a school district could not prohibit a student receiving instruction at a family connected school or a full-time virtual school from participating in any event or activity offered by the school district or require such student to take any class in order to participate in such event or activity. The committee substitute made several changes to home schooling as well as requirements for students receiving a voucher under the Missouri Empowerment Scholarship Program. 

SB234 (B. Brown) moves school board elections to November and changes the terms of office for school board members to 4 years. 

House Committee Hears Bill to Increase Formula Funding 

This week the House Elementary and Secondary Education Committee heard a bill that is designed to increase funding to schools by making changes to the foundation formula. 

HB529 (Black) would remove the cap that is currently in place on the growth of the State Adequacy Target (SAT). Currently there is a 5% cap on the growth of the SAT. Under this legislation the cap would increase 1% per year until 2031-32 when the cap would not exceed 9%. 

The current SAT is $6,375 and has remained constant at that amount over several years. Under the proposal in this bill, the SAT would increase to $6,414 in 2025 and provide an additional $29 million for schools. By the time the full phase in is complete the SAT would be $6,733.  

The Committee also heard the following bills: 

HB558 (Haffner) requires the State Board of Education to develop a simplified school report card for each school district and charter school. The report cards will use specified letter grades A to F for schools based on statewide annual assessments. 

The bill provides specific college and career readiness measure guidelines and instructs DESE to calculate the growth from school year to school year on the state assessment. By the 2025 school year DESE must implement a growth model. 

The bill also requires the State Board to modify the current accreditation process for public schools and school districts by requiring an annual accreditation status for each school and school district by July 1st based on previous school years' data and "best practice standards" in the area of legal compliance, leadership stability, parent education, financial condition, teacher and administration standards, and instructional practices. 

HB159 (Mackey) requires school districts and charter schools to document school suspensions beginning July 1, 2023 and begin reporting this information to the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education annually before July 1, 2024. The bill requires school districts to include on the annual report card data related to school discipline including in school and out of school suspensions, removal of pupils with disabilities, and expulsions. For each type of disciplinary offense aggregate data must be provided. 

The bill also requires school boards to consider reasonable alternative measures to suspension, and prohibits the suspension of students for truancy, absences, or prior offenses. Schools are prohibited from suspending students in preschool to 3rd grade.