Legislative session begins in Bicentennial year  

The 2021 Missouri General Assembly began its Legislative Session this week, kicking off the year Missouri will celebrate the bicentennial of statehood. MSTA lobbyists will once again support the priorities MSTA members voted on at the annual MSTA Convention and Assembly of Delegates. After the Assembly, the MSTA Education Policy adopted new 2021 Education Policy Priorities, incorporating resolutions adopted regarding COVID-19 pandemic response, virtual education guidelines and high-speed internet expansion.  

Due to term limits, there are 10 new senators and 49 new members of the House of Representatives, including many members with strong roots in public education. This session welcomed a new Speaker of the House, Rob Vescovo, R-Arnold. Speaker Vescovo previously served as the Majority Floor Leader of the House. In his opening remarks, he focused on education reform measures, including support for a form of vouchers called “Education Savings Accounts” as well as support for early childhood education.  

While there will be differences on public education policy, innovation and support for students and teachers is an important goal for this upcoming session to address teacher pay, broad band internet expansion and the state response to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The leadership of the Missouri State Senate is unchanged, with Sen. Dave Schatz, R-Sullivan, continuing to serve as President Pro Tem and Sen. Caleb Rowden, R-Columbia, as Majority Floor Leader. Senate and House Committees relating to education and retirement will be named in the coming weeks.

MSTA lobbyists will continue to work in the Capitol during session, attending legislative hearings, testifying on legislation and working with legislators to advocate for Missouri students, teachers and local communities.   

Gov. Mike Parson will be sworn into office for a second term on Jan. 11 at 11:30 a.m., on the South Lawn of the Missouri State Capitol. The 2021 State of the State Address will be delivered by Gov. Parson on Thursday, Jan. 21 at 3 p.m. 

MSTA releases survey results, with significant media attention 

In early December, MSTA surveyed members to get their feelings on issues facing teachers, including whether or not standardized testing should be suspended this year.  More than 6,000 teachers responded, and they were overwhelmingly in favor of suspending standardized testing.  

This week MSTA released the results of the survey to members, the media, education stakeholders, the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education as well as the State Board of Education.  The results of the survey illustrate that there is still work to be done to support students and education professionals across the state.

At the 2020 MSTA Assembly of Delegates, members adopted a resolution stating that MSTA “Opposes Statewide student assessments and punitive measures against school districts, educators, and funding during the pandemic.”  In December, MSTA Executive Director Bruce Moe sent a letter to Commissioner Margie Vandeven outlining opposition for statewide testing from education professionals and urged the State Board of Education to request a waiver from the federal government. 

At the Dec. 8, 2020 State Board of Education meeting, the board voted 8-0 to suspend the use of the results of the 2021 school year state assessments from the state and federal accountability systems. The State Board of Education will meet again Jan. 12 where they will hear a report on teacher workforce issues from the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.

Do you have a question for MSTA Government Relations?  

Do you have questions about possible education legislation? A feature called VideoAsk allows you to send questions by video, audio, or text. We might include your question in a later Q&A video! You can find this feature on the homepage of our website. Visit msta.org to ask a question.

Text “MSTA” to 52886 

The MSTA Rapid Response program continues this year after success from last session. If you have not previously signed up, please text “MSTA” to 52886. The MSTA Rapid Response program allows MSTA members to quickly and effectively reach their elected officials during the legislative session.

Dearld Snider named Public School & Employee Retirement Systems of Missouri Executive Director  

With the retirement of Steve Yoakum, the Public School & Employee Retirement Systems of Missouri Board of Directors hired Dearld Snider to serve as the new executive director.  Snider became the executive director on Dec. 1, 2020. He first joined PSRS/PEERS in January 2006 serving in several positions in the system, including as assistant executive director, operations. Prior to working at PSRS/PEERS Dearld began his career with Missouri Consolidated Health Care Plan. Snider holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in political science from the University of Missouri-Columbia, as well as a Master of Business of Administration from William Woods University.  

He has regularly attended MSTA Annual Conventions, helping members navigate their retirement plans and in other briefings to the association.   

The next regularly scheduled meeting of the PSRS/PEERS Board of Trustees is scheduled for March 1, 2021.