Gov. Parson sworn into first full term of office
Gov. Mike Parson pledged to work for all Missourians on Monday as he was sworn into a full four-year term as the governor of Missouri.
Parson, the state’s 57th governor, delivered his inaugural address that was focused on looking forward. “As we closed the chapter on 2020, we all had time to reflect,” Parson said. “There were sad times, tough times, and exciting times. And through it all … Missourians prevailed. Despite the challenges, the heartbeat of our state continues to pump strong.”
He said, “From rural areas to the big cities, Missouri offers so much to so many … and others want to come to Missouri because of our values, our hard work, and our commonsense approach.”
Parson said, “As the leader of this great state, it is my job to make the life better for every Missourian. This state is more than my house. It is my home.” Parson’s speech follows the speeches made last week from legislative leaders in both the Senate and the House.
Rep. Rob Vescovo, the newly elected Speaker of the House, made education the primary focus of the speech that he delivered to his colleagues.
He says he was ridiculed by other students and by some of his teachers while growing up, due to his ADHD and other learning challenges. He said it is important to learn from students who struggled within the education system.
“As a student who struggled, I believe I do have valuable insight on what works and what doesn’t. I believe it is time our system of education listens to these students, including me, who have seen firsthand how the system can and should improve,” Vescovo said.
He says Missouri’s teachers need the time, resources and flexibility to be able to work with children on a personal level.
He said one way to help will be authorizing public money to help people pay to send kids to private or parochial schools through Education Saving Accounts more commonly known as vouchers.
Sen. Dave Schatz, the returning President Pro Tem, kept his remarks very short but did mention the difficult times the state has faced over the past year. “Families are struggling, and Missourians, to put it bluntly, are exhausted.”
Nevertheless, he said, there are reasons to hope: After the pandemic a century ago, Missourians rebounded to reform schools, crackdown on corruption and made large investments in infrastructure that provided many jobs.
Schatz concluded by saying lawmakers needed to step up again. “Missourians are counting on us,” he said. Besides Parson, four other statewide officer holders were sworn in Monday to four-year terms: Attorney General Eric Schmitt, Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft, Treasurer Scott Fitzpatrick and Lt. Gov. Mike Kehoe.
Familiar faces return as committee chairs
Both the House and Senate announced the members of the standing committees that will work on legislation for this legislative session.
The chairs of both the House and Senate Education Committees returned from last session. Rep Chuck Basye will chair the House Elementary and Secondary Committee and Sen. Cindy O’Laughlin will chair the Senate Education Committee.
Also returning to chair important committees are the chairs of the pension committees in both the House and Senate: Rep. Patricia Pike as chair of the House Pension Committee and Sen. Bob Onder as chair of the Senate Committee on Health and Pensions.
Appropriations/Budget Committee chairs also remain the same as last session with Rep. Cody Smith handling the duties in the House and Sen. Dan Hegeman in the Senate. The chair of the House Sub-Committee on Education Appropriations is Rep. Rusty Black who returns to chair the committee he oversaw last session.
Senate Education Committee: Cindy O’ Laughlin, chair; Rick Brattin, vice-chair; Lauren Arthur; Mike Cierpiot; Elaine Gannon; Andrew Koenig; Bob Onder; Greg Razer; Jill Schupp.
House Education Committee: Chuck Basye, chair; Mike Haffner, vice-chair; Paula Brown, ranking minority member; Ben Baker; Gretchen Bangert; Rusty Black; Phil Christofanelli; Bruce DeGroot; Shamed Dogan; Derek Grier; Ron Hicks; Justin Hill; Ian Mackey; Maggie Nurrenbern; Jonathan Patterson; Brad Pollitt; Mark Sharp; Dan Stacy; Marlene Terry; Cheri Toalson Reisch.
Missouri COVID-19 vaccine update
MSTA Executive Director Bruce Moe sent a letter to the Missouri Department of Health & Senior Services this week, advocating for education professionals to receive expedited administration of the COVID-19 vaccine should they choose to receive one.
Included in the work of the State Board of Education was an update on the vaccine rollout in Missouri. The board and Commissioner Dr. Vandeven expressed frustration regarding the information that had so far been given out regarding when education professionals would have the vaccine available for them.
On Thursday, Gov. Parson announced the next stage of the state plan for COVID-19 vaccine distribution, revealing the priority order for Phase 1B. This phase includes those over 65, and essential employees including school personnel. The majority of education professionals are included in Phase 1B, but will be eligible for the vaccine under Tier 3 of this new phase, following distribution to those over 65 and individuals with chronic health conditions. A timeline has not been established for distribution for Tier 3 individuals. Some MSTA members may be eligible to receive the vaccine under Tier 2, if over 65 or have an underlying chronic health condition. Individuals in Phase 1B - Tier 2 should contact their local pharmacy or health care provider or visit MOStopsCovid.com to learn when vaccines may be available and how to receive them.
MSTA believes that as essential personnel, public education personnel must be made a priority for vaccine distribution. It is vital to student success and the safety of Missouri communities to include all education staff in either Tier 1 or Tier 2 of Phase 1B.
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MSTA Education Policy Priorities relating to Missouri legislation
Pandemic Response: MSTA strongly believes all students and staff have a right to a safe school environment. Missouri education professionals have worked tirelessly throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, responding to a constantly changing environment to provide the best possible education to students. As professionals in public education, teachers and support staff must be involved in decisions affecting schools, students and communities. In a June 2020 survey of MSTA members, with over 2,500 responses, over 70 percent of members said that state testing should be eliminated for the 2020-21 school year in order to add additional time to the calendar to make up for lost time from the 2019-2020 school year.
MSTA supports local school districts developing, approving, and disseminating a local policy that prioritizes the health and safety of students and employees with input from school personnel and the community. The policy must describe the health and safety measures the district will take to mitigate and respond to public health threats, including what actions the school district will take in response to a confirmed contagious disease in the district.
MSTA opposes statewide student assessments and punitive measures against school districts, educators and funding during any pandemic. arts statewide assessment.
Funding: Although the state legislature has worked to appropriate funds to fully fund the school foundation formula, years of underfunding transportation reimbursements by hundreds of millions of dollars, and recent budget withholds have led to inadequate public school funding. Expectations from Missouri schools, teachers and students continue to rise, with a new return of indications that future revenues will not meet anticipated formula growth. To account for lost state revenues, local taxpayers have increased their percentage of funding for schools. The state must work to close the funding gap for K-12 transportation, while fully funding of the formula. “Full Funding for Education” must include the state meeting its obligation to pay the legally required reimbursement for transportation costs and addressing Missouri teacher salaries. MSTA also supports increased funding for early childhood education, parenting programs and family literacy programs.
MSTA supports helping students who have experienced adverse childhood events by incorporating trauma-informed initiatives in the classroom, and professional development for trauma-informed initiatives.
MSTA supports public charter school expansion when charters are granted by the local school board within an existing accredited Missouri public school district and requires all members of a public charter school board to be residents of the district in which the charter school serves. Charter school expansion should include requirements that charter schools have the same certification and compensation standards of other schools in the district, and tenure status should not be reduced or lost as a result of teaching in the public charter school.
MSTA supports requiring all members of a public charter school board be required to be residents of the district which the charter school serves.
MSTA supports distance-learning opportunities for students approved and supported by the local school district.
MSTA supports expanding high speed internet access.
Salaries, Recruitment and Retention
The average teacher salary in Missouri is far below the national average and compared to other states, the average beginning teacher salary is even lower. These inadequately paid professionals are expected to deliver student performance results that are above average. While states surrounding Missouri continue to increase teacher pay, Missouri falls further and further behind national trends in teacher compensation.
MSTA supports innovative strategies to recruit and certificate substitute teachers, provided that applicants complete a robust program that prepares candidates to deliver instruction to students and includes all health and safety screening required of school staff.
A secure and stable defined-benefit retirement program is vital to recruiting and retaining highly qualified and effective educators. Actuarially sound improvements to the system continue to strengthen the Missouri public educators’ financial futures. Transitioning work after retirement from a limit on the number of hours worked to an earnings limit for Public School Retirement System (PSRS) will further simplify burdensome requirements on employees and districts.
Assessment and Evaluation Reform:
The single biggest factor in the success of students is the teacher. MSTA believes that teacher input is vital to the continued success of our students. Local districts need to have the freedom to meet the needs of their communities without control by the state or federal education departments.
MSTA supports each school district developing a written policy for transfer and assignment of students within a district and to any other school district.
MSTA supports the use of locally developed assessments to improve instruction.
MSTA supports local control of public education by the district board of education and autonomy of the local school district to develop and adopt curriculum, assessments, evaluations and other programs to meet educational goals.
MSTA opposes any plan that would use student grades, student class performance or student performance on standardized tests as the single criteria to measure the merit of the teacher.
MSTA opposes limiting the ability of employees to discuss working conditions with their employer.
MSTA opposes federal supersession over state and local responsibility for public education, including assessments that set standards and drive curriculum.
MSTA opposes any proposal to eliminate or weaken the teacher tenure law.
MSTA opposes school vouchers, education tax credits, or education savings accounts, that would divert public money to pay for homeschooling or private school tuition.
MSTA opposes merit pay, including the use of standardized test scores or other subjective criteria as a measurement of teacher performance or to determine further salary increases.