Open enrollment bill remains on House calendar 

HB253 (Pollitt) was not brought up this week, but the bill has been moved to the House informal calendar where it could come up for debate at any time. MSTA continues to oppose this legislation. Education professionals, retirees, and concerned citizens in communities across the state continue to advocate against this harmful legislation. Legislators representing rural, suburban, and urban communities have expressed their opposition to this bill and understand that it will negatively impact their districts, but the vote on this bill could be very close. 

Grassroots advocacy will make a difference between this bill passing or not. Each email, phone call and individual contact with your legislator could make the difference. If you haven’t contacted your legislator, it isn’t too late. You can still use the MSTA Rapid Response platform, or you may contact your state legislator via email or phone.   

The Rapid Response program may also be used by your friends, family and others in your community that want to support students in Missouri public schools.    

Open enrollment would negatively impact teachers and students and communities across the state, leading to school consolidation, the closing of schools, and limiting the ability of students to receive a quality and robust education in their local community.    

MSTA opposes legislative actions involving the concept of inter-district choice and open enrollment.  

Senate committee hears school choice bills 

This week the Senate Education and Workforce development Committee heard three different bills that would expand school choice in Missouri.  MSTA testified in opposition to all three of these bills based on MSTA Adopted Resolutions. 

SB255 (Brattin) establishes the Education Savings Account Program. This legislation would create a new voucher program with state funds. A parent of an eligible child may create an education savings account with moneys appropriated by the General Assembly for the purpose of funding grants into education savings voucher accounts. Parents participating in the program must agree to use the funds in their child's account for certain qualifying expenses. Students who attend public school the previous semester or start school for the first time qualify for the program if their household income does not exceed two times the income level to qualify for free or reduced-price lunch. Students who qualify shall continue to qualify until they graduate high school or reach age 21. 

This act establishes an order of priority for payments into education savings accounts if the number of eligible students with education savings accounts prevents fully funding the program. 

SB255 requires participating private schools to comply with certain existing health, safety, and anti-discrimination laws and policies. Such schools are required to conduct criminal background checks on employees and exclude from employment anyone not permitted to work in a private school under state law and anyone who might reasonably pose a safety threat to students. 

Participating schools must provide parents with a receipt for all qualifying expenses. Schools receiving fifty thousand dollars or more from education savings accounts must demonstrate that the school can repay the funds if so required.   

MSTA opposes legislation that would give tax credits for scholarships, tuition or vouchers to private schools or voucher plans that would divert public funds to pay for private school tuition. 

SB304 (Eigel) would allow charter schools to be operated in any school district located within a charter county as well as in any municipality with a population greater than 30,000. Currently charter schools are allowed in St. Louis, Kansas City and any unaccredited district.   

MSTA opposes this legislation. MSTA Adopted Resolutions support establishment of public charter schools, provided the charters are granted by the local school board within an existing accredited Missouri public school district and provided the charter encourages the best Missouri educators to participate by requiring at least the same certification and compensation standards of other public schools in the district, as well as making certain that tenure status are not reduced or lost as a result of teaching in the public charter school. 

SB360 (Koenig) expands the Missouri Empowerment Scholarship Accounts voucher program. Currently, the cumulative amount of tax credits that may be allocated may be annually increased by adjustments in line with the rate of inflation. This bill would allow the cumulative amount for the voucher program to be increased by the same percentage increase above the forty percent threshold used to trigger the program that is tied to funding of transportation aid under the state funding formula. The bill would also repeal the current language that places a $75 million cap on the program.   

SB360 modifies the grant amount that is provided to students with a qualified individualized education plan to be equal to all state and federal moneys allocated to public schools on a per capita basis to students with an individualized education plan. Under the bill, no parent of a student who attends a home school woud be required to undergo a background check in order to participate in the program. 

Finally, the definition of "qualified student" is modified by repealing language that a qualifying student must be a member of a household whose total annual income does not exceed an amount equal to 200% of the income standard used to qualify for free and reduced-price lunches.   

MSTA opposes legislation that would give tax credits for scholarships, tuition or vouchers to private schools or voucher plans that would divert public funds to pay for private school tuition.   

Change to education funding formula presented 

SB17 (Arthur) was presented in the Senate Education and Workforce Development Committee. The bill would make two changes to the foundation formula. The current formula used to fund Missouri public schools has not significantly increased on a per pupil basis since it was first enacted in 2006. This legislation would change the calculation and allow growth in the formula to increase the state adequacy target and increase funding for public education. 

The other change to the formula would modifiy the definition of poverty weighting of the average daily attendance using US Census poverty estimates. In the school foundation formula, a weight is applied to schools based on their population of students that qualify for free and reduced lunch.  Due to changes in federal law, free and reduced-price lunch in many districts is not an accurate reflection of the poverty that exists in districts. This change would more accurately calculate the number of students in poverty that districts serve.  MSTA testified in support of this legislation.   

Senate education committee approves workforce bill   

SB136 (Eslinger) was voted do pass in the Senate Education and Workforce Development Committee.  This legislation would help students plan for what they will do once they graduate high school. The bill would require the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education to establish a process by which each student prior to freshman year of high school would develop an individual career and academic plan, with help from the student's parent or guardian and the school's counselors.   

Before a student finishes 12th grade, the student would be required to declare their postsecondary plans as part of the student's individual career and academic plan. Beginning July 1, 2024, each school district would be required to establish a process for students to complete and submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid.  

Language milestones for hearing-impaired children presented in committee   

HB106 (Barnes) requires the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education to develop language developmental milestones from existing norms for children from birth to 12 years of age that have been identified as deaf or hard of hearing. The department must develop a parental resource for monitoring and tracking children through the milestone stages toward American Sign Language (ASL) and English literacy.  

HB106 requires that the department select and disseminate tools or assessments for educators to assess the language and literacy development of children and the bill provides specific guidance on the format, age range of development, and appropriateness for such tools or assessments. Children that are in an Individualized Education Plan or an Individualized Family Service Plan that do not demonstrate progress in expressive and receptive language skills as measured by educator tools or assessments must have the lack of progress explained in detail with specific strategies, services, and programs recommended by the IEP or IFSP team. 

The bill also establishes an advisory committee of 16 members that must meet before March 1, 2024, to solicit input from experts on the selection of the language development milestones. Before June 1, 2024, the committee will make recommendations to the department, and the department must select the milestones before July 1, 2024. Annually, starting with the 2024-25 school year an annual report must be produced that is specific to language and literacy development of children who are deaf or hard of hearing including, but not limited to, children who are deaf or hard of hearing and have other disabilities, from birth to 12 years of age relative to peers who are not deaf or hard of hearing.   

Parental rights bill heard in House committee   

The House Elementary and Secondary Education Committee heard HB634 (A. Kelley) which requires that before July 1, 2024, the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education must develop a model procedure for parental notification of any change in a pupil's mental, emotional, or physical health and a school's services or ability to provide a safe and supportive learning environment. The required policy must include procedures to allow parents to access pupils’ education and health records.  

School personnel would be prohibited from providing classroom instruction relating to sexual orientation or gender identity. The bill requires school districts to notify parents of health care services offered to students and provide an option to withhold or decline such services for their student. Schools would be restricted from administration of questionnaires relating to the well-being or health of students in grades K-three without first obtaining parental permission.   

The bill requires the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education to update school counseling frameworks, educator practices, and any other pupil services guidelines before July 1, 2024, to align with the provisions of this section. Procedures relating to violations of the provisions of this section are outlined and the State Board of Education is empowered to appoint a neutral mediator from a list maintained by DESE. The bill includes penalty provisions for any violation to include damages for a parent receiving declaratory or injunctive relief.   

As currently written, the language of the bill is broad and could result in a dramatic loss of local control of curriculum decisions. MSTA supports the autonomy of the local school district to adopt curriculum, assessments, and programs to meet educational goals.   

Additional Capitol Visits Added 

Due to inclement weather during the MSTA Statewide Capitol Visit, two additional dates have been added for the Southwest and Southeast MSTA Regions. The Southeast Region will take place on March 8 and Southwest on March 21.  Registration is encouraged prior to the event to enable MSTA to send you helpful information prior to your visit.  You can register by visiting