Missouri teachers eligible for vaccines March 15
Missouri teachers and other school personnel are one step closer to being able to teach without the threat of COVID. On Feb. 25, Gov. Mike Parson announced teachers would be able to get the vaccine beginning March 15.
MSTA has been a vocal supporter for teachers to be on the priority list for vaccines in order for schools to safely reopen. Last week, MSTA shared a letter from the current and several former Missouri Teachers of the Year presented a heartfelt and factual request to allow teachers to be vaccinated and get on with their work in the classrooms.
“Opening up vaccinations to include education professionals is certainly a step in the right direction,” said Bruce Moe, executive director of MSTA. “Educators shouldn’t have to worry about their safety while focusing on in-person learning. Hopefully, vaccinating education professionals will help Missouri’s school districts get back to some sense of normalcy for the sake of educators, parents and most importantly, students.”
The Missouri House narrowly approves new $50 million voucher program
HB349 (Christofanelli) would allow any taxpayer who contributes to the Missouri Empowerment Scholarship Accounts Program to claim a tax credit equal to 100 percent of the total contribution to fund a new voucher program in Missouri. Under changes to the bill, the voucher program would begin at $50 million in the first year and could ultimately expand to $75 million each year. The legislation would allow new non-profit organizations called Education Assistance Organizations to oversee the distribution of public funds.
For students to qualify for the program, they must be a resident in a county with a charter form of government, or any city with a population of at least 30,000 and either have an individualized education plan or come from a household whose total income does not exceed 200 percent of the income standard used to quality for free and reduced prices lunches. The student must also have attended a public school for at least one semester during the previous year or is eligible to begin kindergarten or first grade.
A new trigger was added to the bill that would not allow the program to begin until funding for public school transportation equals or exceeds 40 percent of the required 75 percent necessary to fully fund student transportation costs. This would require approximately an $18 million increase in the appropriated amount of money for a transportation budget that is currently underfunded by over $200 million. The legislation only requires that the legislature provide the appropriation, there is no guarantee that the funding will actually be available and would still allow the program to begin if the transportation funding was restricted by the governor as has happened in some past years. An additional amendment was added that would allow districts to maintain their funding if they could prove that they lost students due to the program. That funding would only be available for the first five years of the voucher program.
The bill passed with the minimum of 82 votes needed to send the bill to the Senate to continue its path through the legislative process.
Thousands of MSTA members contacted their legislators to oppose this legislation and to advocate for all students in communities across the state. MSTA continues to oppose this diversion of state tax dollars away from public education based on the MSTA Adopted Resolutions. Education professionals believe that all students deserve equal access to a free public education. We believe that the continuation of our free nation and its strength and well-being depend on our free public schools.
The bill will now head to the Senate.
HB349 ROLL CALL - See votes below.
|Voting Yes||Voting No||Present||Absent|
Senate awaits voteon harmful omnibus education bill
SB55 (O’Laughlin) was brought up for debate in the Senate this week with a new substitute. While Sen. Cindy O’Laughlin is carrying the bill, Senate Majority Floor Leader Caleb Rowden introduced a massive Senate substitute that included many of the provisions of SCS/SB55 but also included a number of items that have not been through the committee process in the Senate. The bill now contains a long list of items including education savings account vouchers, charter school expansion, drastic arbitrary changes to public school accreditation, mandated reading instruction changes, homeschool student participation in MSHSAA activities, changes to local control of schools during a pandemic, teaching of bible courses and a new parental sign off for human sexuality courses. See the online story for a full summary of the bill.
The substitute bill was released after midnight on Wednesday. Many of the provisions in the bill include language from other bills that MSTA has opposed in both the current and previous sessions, including the diversion of public dollars for private education with the creation of new education savings account vouchers, as well as charter school expansion. MSTA continues a full review of new language that was included in the bill and how it would impact public education. The Senate finished their amendment process early into the morning on Wednesday but placed the bill back on the calendar before taking a vote on the newest version. There will be no further opportunities to amend the legislation, and when it is brought before the body again, a vote will be taken on the bill.
Ideas to improve teacher compensation heard in committees
Finding ways to improve compensation for teachers was the topic of several bills that were heard in different House committees this week. MSTA testified in support of two of the bills.
On Tuesday the House Elementary and Secondary Education Committee heard HB1133 (R. Black) that is designed to restart and improve on the Career Ladder Program. The Career Ladder program is a voluntary salary supplemental program where teachers can earn additional compensation based upon the number of hours of work that is done outside of the contracted time. Currently a local district is required to contribute 60 percent of the cost with the state picking up the remaining 40 percent. This bill would switch the percentages to 60 percent for the state and 40 percent for the local district.
The bill lists additional responsibilities and volunteer efforts outside of compensated hours may include uncompensated coaching, supervising, and organizing extracurricular activities, serving as a mentor or tutor to students, additional teacher training or certification, or assisting students with college preparation.
Teachers in districts that elect to participate would be eligible to begin the Career Ladder Program after five years of teaching. Rep. Rusty Black indicated that eligibility would be changed to allow teachers to start Career Ladder after two years of teaching. Teachers on Step I would work 60 hours outside of contracted time and earn $1,500, Step II would be 90 hours and $3,500 and Step III would be 120 hours and $5,000. Teachers must remain on Step I for two years and Step II for three years before getting to Step III.
Career Ladder would continue to be subject to the legislature appropriating money to restart the program. Career Ladder was last funded in 2010 with $37.6 million and had 343 participating districts and 17,980 teachers.
On Wednesday the House Committee on Emerging Issues heard HB727 (C. Smith) that provides an income tax deduction on the income received by any taxpayer for his or her services as a teacher or paraprofessional. The bill would phase in such a deduction beginning Jan. 1, 2022, the deduction will be worth 25 percent of such income. The deduction will be increased each year at 25 percent increments of such income, ending at 100% on January 1, 2025.
HB1067 (Shaul) requires the Department of Elementary and Secondary education to make rules regarding the minimal grade average (GPA) requirement to qualify for the A+ grant award that will only consider grade averages that do not have a negative change to a student’s GPA from 2019-20 or 2020-21 due to the impact of Covid19.
HB1141 (Buchheit-Courtway) substantially similar to HB1067.
Elementary and Secondary Education
HB164 (Veit) allows for any school district to be divided into subdistricts and provides for the process for the election of subdistrict board members. Subdistricts shall be of contiguous and compact territory and as nearly equal in population as practicable. The length of directors’ terms, election procedures, filling of vacancies, and residency requirements are outlined in the bill.
HB229 (Basye) establishes a recall procedure for school board members. Members may not be recalled during the first 30 days or last 180 days of their term. The recall petition requirements are outlined in the bill and include grounds for which a recall may be called which include but are not limited to conduct that adversely affects the rights and interests of the public; commission of an act of malfeasance; and moral turpitude. The notice for recall is required to be sent to the board member’s school district and the board member may file a statement in response to the recall notice of intention. Procedures for the circulation of a petition for recall, the certification of the petition, and the date and manner for the recall ballot language and election are outlined in the bill.
HB253 (Fishel) modifies the election process for school board members for the Springfield school district. Before Dec. 1, 2022 the election authority shall divide the school district into five subdistricts. The five subdistricts will be nearly equal in population as practical. There also shall be two at-large districts.
HB1133 (R. Black) expands on the criteria for Career Ladder admission and stage achievement. Additional responsibilities and volunteer efforts outside of compensated hours may include uncompensated coaching, supervising, and organizing extracurricular activities, serving as a mentor or tutor to students, additional teacher training or certification, or assisting students with college preparation. The bill increases the state percentage of funding for salary supplements for career ladder from 40 percent to 60 percent. See earlier story. MSTA testified in support.
HJR47 (Bailey) upon voter approval, the resolution would amend the Missouri Constitution to change the State Board of Education from being appointed by the governor to a board elected at the same time as the next presidential election. One member will be elected from each congressional district by the voters of the congressional district and one member will be elected by the voters of the state. Vacancies may be filled by the governor as outlined in the bill. MSTA testified in opposition.
HB151 (Shields) would allow a school district that enters into an agreement with another district to share a superintendent to receive an additional $30,000 per year in state aid for up to five years. The bill directs districts to spend the additional compensation and half of the savings from sharing a superintendent on teacher salaries or counseling services. Voted do pass.
HB306 (Griesheimer) requires school districts and charter schools to establish a state-approved gifted program if 3 percent or more of the students are determined to be gifted by July 1, 2023. By July 1, 2023, districts and charter schools with an average daily attendance of more than 350 students are required to have a teacher certificated to teach gifted education. In districts with an average daily attendance of 350 or less, any teacher providing gifted instruction is not required to be certified to teach gifted education but must participate in six hours per year of professional development regarding gifted services. Voted do pass with committee substitute.
HB439 (Davidson) would allow school districts to issue a district teaching permit to any individual that does not currently hold a State Board of Education issued teaching certificate. The district teaching permit allows the holder to teach only in the issuing school district unless another school district also issues permits and recognizes permits issued in this manner as part of their policy. The bill requires districts to develop a policy listing qualifications which include, at a minimum, an associate’s degree and background check. The number of teachers issued a teaching permit must not exceed 25 percent of the total number of teachers employed in the district. If an individual is issued a teaching permit and teaches for four years, the State Board of Education may issue a teaching certificate as specified in the bill. MSTA testified in opposition.
HB727 (C. Smith) provides that 100 percent of the income received by any taxpayer for his or her services as a teacher or paraprofessional may be deducted from his or her Missouri adjusted gross income to determine his or her taxable income. If the individual files a combined return with a spouse, any income that would otherwise be attributable to the taxpayer if the taxpayer filed separately, to the extent that such income is included in the taxpayers’ combined federal adjusted gross income, may be deducted from their Missouri combined adjusted gross income. See earlier story.
The sponsor stated that this was an “outside the box” idea that is the start of the discussion on ways the state can help improve salaries of teachers in order to help recruit and retain teachers.