Voucher bills continue to be pushed in both the Senate and House
While SCS/SB55 (O’Laughlin) has remained on the Senate Calendar where it could be brought up for consideration soon, the House Elementary and Secondary Education Committee heard another bill that would fund Missouri Empowerment Scholarships through a new unchecked tax credit program. HB729 (O’Donnell) would allow for a $50 million tax credit program to create a new voucher program. The bill contains much of the same language that is in SB55. An expansion of charter schools would be allowed in any municipality with a population greater than 30,000 under the bill. Virtual learning expansion is also included in this legislation.
SB25 (Eigel) and SB23 (Koenig) which have already been heard in committee in the Senate, are now combined with SB55. In the House, several bills relating to public funds being used for private education have been heard by the Elementary and Secondary Education Committee and are awaiting a vote. These include HB349 (Christofanelli), HB540 (Fitzwater), and HB729 (O’Donnell).
MSTA members 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 and that public dollars should remain in public schools.
MSTA opposes these bills and will keep members up to date on all activity on these harmful bills during the legislative session. To ensure you are immediately notified of MSTA Rapid Response activation, text MSTA to 52886 to get a text message and the ability to contact your State Senator directly from your personal cell phone.
Legislators hear vaccine distribution update
Last month, MSTA Executive Director Bruce Moe sent a letter to Gov. Mike Parson, the director of the Department of Health and Senior Services, and the Commissioner of the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education advocating that education professionals receive priority status in the vaccine schedule should they choose to get vaccinated. This position would be consistent with the state department’s goal of opening schools and keeping them open.
According to The New York Times, almost half of U.S. states currently allow teachers to be vaccinated to ensure that schools can open and remain open during the pandemic. Most of the states surrounding Missouri currently allow teachers to receive a COVID-19 vaccine. This week, Dr. Randall Williams, the director of the Department of Health and Senior Services, gave an update to the House Health and Mental Health Policy Committee. He said individuals in the Phase 1B-Tier 3 would be able to get the vaccine later in the spring but did not give a specific time frame. Missouri’s Phase 1B-Tier 3 would include education professionals. MSTA will continue to advocate that professional educators should remain a priority for vaccine availability, should they choose to get vaccinated.
While most educators will fall into the Phase 1B-Tier3 category, anyone 65 or older or individuals with an underlying chronic health condition may be currently eligible to receive the vaccine. Visit mostopscovid.com for more information.
Senate committee considers changes to virtual education
A proposal in the Missouri Senate would allow parents to enroll students in state-funded virtual education without input from their local school districts. SB95 (Onder) was heard in the Senate Education Committee this week.
Currently, school districts and parents are supposed to cooperate to determine whether virtual school is in a student’s best interest. If a district allows a student to enroll in virtual education, the district pays for the online classes and monitors students’ progress. If it denies approval, parents can appeal, first to the local school board, then to the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.
Under the changes proposed in SB95, parents could make a decision to enroll a student in a virtual program, have the district pay, without the district having any accountability for the progress that a student makes or doesn’t make. Virtual schools would be responsible for monitoring student outcomes and could remove students who weren’t successful.
Details of exactly how much funding virtual schools would receive from the state were unclear. A fiscal analysis of the proposal notes that language in the bill is confusing. For full-time students, this proposal would require the district of residence to pay an amount equal to the average daily attendance for the student. This is substantially higher than what districts are currently paying for virtual education students.
Those opposed to the bill, including MSTA, believe that virtual education can be delivered at a lower cost than students attending in person. The MSTA Adopted Resolutions support distance-learning opportunities for students approved and supported by the local school district.
Finally, school districts or charter schools are required, under current law, to inform parents of their child’s right to participate in the virtual school program. This bill would change it so that any school district or charter school that fails to notify parents of their child’s right to participate in the program shall be subject to civil penalties in an amount equal to $100 for each day such school district or charter school is in violation of this requirement, including reasonable attorney’s fees.
HB29 (Walsh) requires all public employee retirement systems and quasi-governmental entities to report employees’ salaries and any incentive pay to the Missouri government accountability portal in the same manner as all state departments and agencies report.
Voted do pass.
Elementary and Secondary Education
HB729 (O’Donnell) includes language substantially similar to SCS/SB55. See earlier story.
HB942 (Haffner) modifies the public school accreditation and statewide assessment system. The bill allows for the statewide assessment system to track student performance from different schools if a student has transferred from one school to another. The bill defines “attendance center” as an individual public elementary or secondary school or charter school, and directs the State Board of Education, to collect and disseminate information on the attendance center level rather than the current overall district level. The legislation expands on the classification and accreditation rule-making authority by providing new categories of classification with specific methodology for making accreditation determinations. Districts in the bottom 10 percent of the state distribution will be classified as unaccredited, the bottom 25 percent will be provisionally accredited or unaccredited, and districts in the top 10 percent will be classified as accredited with distinction.
HB228 (Basye) prevents any public school district or charter schools from prohibiting a parent or guardian from audio recording any meeting held under the Federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) or a Section 504 plan. Districts or charter schools may not require parents to provide more than 24 hours’ notice in order to record the meeting, and no school district employee who reports a violation under this section shall be subject to discharge, retaliation, or any other adverse employment action for reporting. Voted do pass consent.
SB95 (Onder) expands the Missouri Course Access and Virtual School Program. See earlier story.
SB134 (O’Laughlin) prevents any public school district or charter schools from prohibiting a parent or guardian from audio recording any meeting held under the Federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) or a Section 504 plan. Districts or charter schools may not require parents to provide more than 24 hours’ notice in order to record the meeting, and no school district employee who reports a violation under this section shall be subject to discharge, retaliation, or any other adverse employment action for reporting.
SB218 (Luetkemeyer) modifies the calculation of the amount a school district with one or more pupils attending a charter school will pay to the charter school.
A school district having one or more resident pupils attending a charter school shall pay to the charter school an annual amount equal to the product of the charter school’s weighted average daily attendance and the state adequacy target, multiplied by the dollar value modifier for the district, less the charter school’s share of local effort, plus all other state aid attributable to such pupils, plus local aid received by the school district, divided by the total weighted average daily attendance of the school district and all charter schools within the school district. Local aid is defined as all local and county revenue received by the school district and charter schools within the school district.
The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education is required to conduct an annual review of any
payments made in the previous fiscal year to determine whether there has been any underpayment or overpayment. The review must include a calculation of the amount of local aid owed to charter schools using the first preceding year’s annual audit. The school district must pay to the charter school the amount calculated by such review. In the event of an underpayment, the school district shall remit the underpayment amount to the charter school. In the event of an overpayment, the charter school shall remit the overpayment amount to the school district. If the school district or charter school fails to remit any required payment, the Department shall impose any penalty deemed necessary.
Do you know a Missouri legislator?
Do you or a family member have an existing relationship with members of the Missouri House or Missouri Senate? MSTA is looking for members that are willing to share their connections to elected officials to help advocate for
strong public education during the legislative session.
MSTA needs members who have established connections to elected officials to stay engaged in the legislative process and let MSTA work harder for you. MSTA lobbyists advocate for
MSTA members in Jefferson City during the legislative session, but nothing can replace the constituent as the most important person to a legislator.