Who ya gonna call?
If my sewage backs up, can I come up with the name of the person to help? If I need my hot water fixed, who is the expert I know to call? My house is on fire, what do I do? As educators, we are often told that everyone knows about our job because they have been through public schools or have been in a classroom. But let’s be real… they don’t know what actually goes on. We as educators should strive to be “that expert” for our representatives and senators when Jefferson City needs something fixed.
This past Wednesday, I had the opportunity to visit the Capitol. I had better conversations than I had ever had with my elected officials. I had 30+ minutes of their undivided attention in three different offices; Sen. Holly Rehder, Rep. Wayne Wallingford, and Rep. Barry Hovis’ offices all made time for me. Barry Hovis, my representative, called me ahead of time because he KNEW exactly what we were going to talk about. He wouldn’t have known that previously, but I’ve been visiting his office for the last three years.
Rep. Hovis showed me his list of people who had called about HB349 and he stated that he had numerous other emails he was still getting back to. While he didn’t vote the way we wanted him to this time, he knows that I’ll be calling or emailing him about each education bill that is coming his way.
MSTA lobbyists continue to diligently work for us each day during the session and let each of us know about what is going on. We can educate ourselves weekly because of reading the Action that comes out each Friday and additionally by signing up for Rapid Response. This is a great resource for us all to stay on top of things that could and have dramatically impacted how we teach each day in the classroom.
But remember - we are the experts. Often our representatives and senators are only hearing the horrible stories about education. Got a second? Send them an email about the fabulous things that are happening in your classroom. Build the relationship so that they know your name when you call and seek you out for more information. We may not be the expert on everything that they deal with, but we definitely know public education and our students.
I enjoy each moment representing you as your president, but your voice counts just as much as mine. Keep your CTA members updated with information, seek out leadership opportunities, and remember even if you can’t visit the Capitol in person, you can make a phone call that can go a long way.
If students learn best from teachers with whom they have a relationship, so can our representatives.
Halley Russell, MSTA State President
Governor releases withhold of foundation formula money
Earlier this week Gov. Mike Parson announced he was releasing the remaining $280 million in budget restrictions in the current fiscal year 2021. “Thanks to our balanced approach to COVID-19, Missouri is in a much better position than what was originally projected,” Gov. Parson said. “Our economy continues to come back strong, and we’re pleased to be able to release the remainder of these funds today.” The largest restriction was to the foundation formula.
The release of the restrictions follows earlier releases of over $38 million in general revenue in October 2020 and $119 million in January 2021.
Funds released relating to education include:
- $123,358,675 for the foundation formula
- $700,000 for the urban teaching program
- $700,000 for virtual schools and education programs
- $200,000 for community in schools pilot program
- $74,520 for the division of learning services in DESE
- $119,713 for the Missouri preschool program quality assurance report program
- $1,000,000 for performance-based assessment program
Education budget moves forward
This week the House Appropriations Committee for Education made changes to the education budget. These changes are in the form of recommendations that are made to the full House Budget Committee. Most of the budget remained unchanged. There was a change to take unneeded money from the school broadband grant fund and use that money for early literacy and the scholars and fine arts academy.
There are no changes to increase funding for school transportation for the next fiscal year. The current budget keeps the appropriations level the same as it is for the current year, woefully underfunded.
Specific budget items that remained unchanged include:
- $8.5 million to fully fund the school foundation formula
- $1 million for School Innovative Waiver Program to improve student readiness and teacher recruitment and development.
- $8.4 million for Early Childhood Special Education
- $4.3 million in federal funds to implement a comprehensive literacy program
- $2 million for Early Childhood Development, Education and Care Fund for parent education and developmental screenings
- $1.36 million to begin a phased approach to enhance school improvement efforts
Senate gives initial passage to 529 plan bill with other education issues included
SB152 (Hoskins) was filed to make Missouri’s 529 college savings plan program mirror federal rules and regulations but was expanded on the senate floor to include several provisions that could impact public education.
Sen. Denny Hoskins offered a floor substitute on the bill that included the language from SB151, also sponsored by Sen. Hoskins. This language would mandate that if 3 percent or more of students enrolled in a school district are determined to be gifted, the district must establish a state-approved gifted program for gifted children. If a school district has an average daily attendance of 350 students or fewer, the district’s gifted program shall not be required to provide services by a teacher certified to teach gifted education. Any teacher who provides gifted services through the program, and is not certified, shall annually participate in at least six hours of professional development focused on gifted development. The legislation would apply to school years beginning on or after July 1, 2023.
Sen. Lauren Arthur added an amendment that would include a plan for an alternative Missouri diploma program called the Show Me Success Diploma Program and pilot a competency-based education pilot program. The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education would develop detailed requirements for students to become eligible for the Show Me Success diploma. Students who earn a Show Me Success diploma may elect to remain in high school. Alternatively, a student having earned the diploma may instead enroll in a qualifying postsecondary educational institution. For each student enrolled in such an institution, an amount equal to 90 percent of the pupil’s proportionate share of the state, local, and federal aid that the district or charter school receives for such pupil would be deposited into an account that lists the pupil as the beneficiary.
Also included in the amendment offered by Sen. Arthur is legislation that would establish the competency-based education grant program. Districts could apply to the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education for grants to establish competency-based education programs. DESE would facilitate the creation, sharing and development of course assessments, curriculum, training and guidance for teachers, and best practices for the school districts that offer competency-based education courses. To help with the work of the new program, a competency-based education task force would be created to study and develop competency-based education programs in public schools. The task force would conduct interviews and hold at least three public hearings to identify promising competency-based education programs and obstacles to implementing such programs. Before Dec. 1 annually, the task force would be required to present its findings and recommendations to the Speaker of the House of Representatives, the President Pro Tempore of the Senate, the Joint Committee on Education, and the State Board of Education.
Other amendments to the bill included provisions relating to community college districts, higher education, a change from a bill passed last session regarding the accreditation of Montessori schools, and training for the care of students with epilepsy and seizure disorders.
The bill will need an additional vote from the Senate before it will be considered passed and sent to the House for its consideration on the legislation.
Elementary and Secondary Education
HB1071 (Shields) changes the Early Learning Quality Assurance Program from a pilot program to an established program and removes the current sunset language set to expire in 2022.
HB320 (Fitzwater) modifies the definition of “computer science course” to include both a stand-alone computer course in the elementary, middle, and high school levels or any course that embeds computer science content within other subjects. The bill will require public schools and charter schools to offer at least one computer science course in high school, instruction in exploratory computer science in middle school, and the basics of computer science and computational thinking in elementary schools. Districts and charter schools will annually submit a report to DESE that includes computer science courses offered in each school in the district, the number and percentage of students enrolled, and the number of computer science instructors, along with demographics and additional information specified in the bill. The bill requires the department to appoint a computer science supervisor to be responsible for the posting of information to the department’s website. Beginning in school years after July 1, 2022 public institutions of higher education will allow a computer science course counted toward a mathematics, science, or practical art state graduation credit to satisfy as an equivalent admission requirement.
HB494 (Hurlbert) specifies that a school district shall not receive funding under the foundation formula if the district is a member of, or remits any funds to, any statewide activities association that prohibits a home school student from participating in any event or activity offered by the school district or requires a home school student to attend the public school for any portion of a school day in order to participate in any event or activity. DESE is required to withhold payments to districts in violation of this bill until such district proves to the State Board of Education that the school district has ceased membership in the organization. This bill further provides that a statewide activities association shall not prohibit or restrict any school district that is a member of the association from participating in any events authorized or regulated by the association with any school that is not a member of the association.
HB541 (E. Lewis) will require DESE by Nov. 1 of each year, to publish on the department’s website a list of Missouri schools that have been performing within the bottom 5 percent of schools for more than three years and must designate any such school as a “persistently failing school.” Any school district with more than two schools falling into the bottom 5 percent of schools for more than two years shall be classified as provisionally accredited by the State Board of Education. School districts with any school falling in the bottom 5 percent of schools for three years over a five-year period beginning in 2018, must close the school and transfer students to a higher performing school in the district. The district must develop a partnership with a nonprofit school operator to create an in-district charter school; or reimburse any district or charter school that will allow students to transfer an amount equal to the average per-pupil expenditure for the district. Any school district that has more than 20 percent of students attending persistently failing schools must work with an external partner to develop a district plan to reduce the number of students in such schools by 5 percent each year and must establish a charter authorizing office, or partner with an eligible public four-year college or university to review any charter petitions for the district, approve such charter petitions, and submit such petitions to the Board of Education for a vote.
HB164 (Veit) allows for any seven-director school district or an urban 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. Voted do pass with substitute.
HB229 (Basye) establishes a recall procedure for school board members. Voted do pass with committee substitute.
HB253 (Fishel) modifies the election process for school board members of the Springfield Public School District. Before Dec. 1, 2022, the election authority shall divide the school district into five subdistricts. The five subdistricts shall be nearly equal in population as practical. There also shall be two at-large districts. After each decennial census the subdistricts must be reapportioned. The bill provides the process for candidate filing, ballot order, initial terms, and vacancy filling. On the general municipal election day in 2023 and each year thereafter the expired school board positions shall be filled in the following order: subdistrict seat 1, 3, 5, 2, and 4 first, and then the two at large seats. Voted do pass.
HB754 (Christofanelli) specifies that full-time equivalent virtual students shall not be included in the student enrollment of the school district in which such student resides and that scores on the statewide assessment for full-time equivalent students shall be attributed to the Missouri course access and virtual school program which will function as a local education agency. DESE will pay 100 percent of its average per-pupil expenditure for each full-time equivalent student. The bill outlines that costs must be paid by the school district or charter school, or by DESE for full-time equivalent students to the provider on a pro rata basis once per semester based on a student’s completion of assignments and assessments. The bill grants DESE the authority to terminate or alter the course offering for full-time equivalent students and the responsibility of school districts and charter schools to monitor full-time student progress and success is now granted to the virtual school providers. Any school district or charter school that fails to notify parents of his or her 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. Voted do pass with committee substitute.
HJR47 (Bailey) upon voter approval, this resolution proposes amending 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. Voted do pass.
SB204 (Cierpiot) substantially similar to HB320 heard in the House Elementary and Secondary Education Committee.
SB133 (O’Laughlin) substantially similar to HB541 heard in the House Elementary and Secondary Education Committee.
SB400 (Onder) would require the State Board of Education to classify and accredit both attendance centers and school districts. Attendance centers would be defined as any individual public elementary or secondary school, including any charter school. Such classifications can only include the categories of unaccredited, provisionally accredited, accredited, and accredited with distinction. Standardized test performance and measures of student growth derived from such performance, such as the Missouri Growth Model, shall make up at least 70 percent of the rubric or scoring methodology for accreditation determinations. Attendance centers and districts performing in the bottom 5 percent of composite proficiency in math and reading must be classified as unaccredited, while attendance centers and districts performing in the bottom 10 percent must be provisionally accredited or unaccredited. Only attendance centers and districts performing in the top 10 percent in math and reading proficiency and student growth shall be classified as accredited with distinction. School districts in which 50 percent or more of attendance centers are classified as unaccredited will also be classified as unaccredited, while districts with at least 25 percent unaccredited attendance centers will be classified as provisionally accredited or unaccredited. The bill requires school districts and charter schools to mail letters to parents and guardians of students in attendance centers that have been classified as provisionally accredited or unaccredited to inform them of the classification and students’ education options.
SB296 (Brattin) establishes the Education Savings Account Voucher Program. Students eligible to attend public school the previous semester or starting 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. A parent of an eligible child may create an education savings account. The Educational Savings Account Program Fund is established consisting of monies appropriated by the General Assembly for the purpose of funding grants into education savings accounts. This bill provides that participating private schools are autonomous and are not agents of state or federal governments. No state agency or officer shall regulate the educational program of participating private schools or education providers. The program does not expand the regulatory authority of the state, its officers, or school districts over private schools or education providers beyond what is necessary to enforce program requirements. Participating private schools and education providers shall be given maximum freedom to provide for students’ education needs. Voted do pass with committee substitute.
SB95 (Onder) modifies the Missouri Course Access and Virtual School Program. Substantially similar to HB754 in the House Elementary and Secondary Education Committee. Voted do pass with committee substitute.
SB134 (O’Laughlin) provides that no school district or charter school shall prohibit a parent or legal guardian of a student from audio recording any meeting held under the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, or the federal Rehabilitation Act of 1973. Any audio recording made by a parent or legal guardian shall be the property of the parent or guardian and shall not be considered a public record. School districts and charter schools shall not require parents to notify the school district or charter school of such parent’s intent to record a meeting more than 24 hours in advance. No school district or charter school employee who reports any violation of this act shall be subject to discharge, retaliation, or any other adverse employment action for making such report. Voted do pass.