SS/SCS/SB612 (Koenig) was brought up again for debate in the Senate. This legislation would establish the Missouri Empowerment Scholarship Accounts Program. The previous Senate substitute was withdrawn, and a new version was debated for more than five hours. This substitute removed the innovation school language that was in the previous version and added an income-adjusted threshold to the voucher, prorating the voucher based on family income. A section relating to student hardship transfers remains in the current substitute. This is the second time the bill has been brought up for deliberation but not voted on, and it could be brought up again soon for further consideration.
SS/SCS/SB612 establishes a voucher system in Missouri by creating Missouri Empowerment Scholarship Accounts. The law would allow for tax credits to be issued for up to $25 million per year and would be increased at the rate of inflation in future years for donations to the program.
Qualified students would be eligible to receive a voucher worth up to 1.5 times the amount of the state adequacy target. In order to qualify for the program, students must be a “child with a disability” as outlined in the bill, the child of a parent in active military service or a ward of the state.
MSTA remains opposed to SB612, if students are receiving scholarships that are funded by contributions that receive a tax credit, there should be accountability on those educational programs. Public schools are held to high accountability standards, and schools that accept these scholarships should have accountability measures to ensure that students are receiving a quality education. Missouri continues to see very modest growth in revenues, making it difficult for programs to remain funded at their current levels. This bill would create a new $25 million hole in Missouri’s budget.
A year and a half ago when Rep. Scott Fitzpatrick became chair of the House Budget Committee he stated that his number one goal was to fully fund the foundation formula that funds K-12 education. He remained true to his word, as Fitzpatrick unveiled a budget plan that increased funding for the foundation formula by $98 million over the current funding levels.
When Governor Greitens unveiled his budget, he included a $50 million increase to the foundation formula. The House plan added the additional $48 needed for full funding. The plan will be debated by the House Budget Committee before going before the full House for approval. Other changed made to the funding levels included the addition of $750,000 for Teach for America, $500,000 for a new K-3 reading assessment program, $250,000 for the Scholars and Fine Arts Academies, $300,000 for active shooter training and $59,713 for Early Childhood Quality Assurance Program.
The House plan does make a reduction of $5.8 million to the Missouri Preschool Project. This is a cut of half of the current funding. Chairman Fitzpatrick made the proposed cut because of the provision of the foundation formula that allows districts to start receiving funding through the foundation formula for preschool students representing 4 percent of their students that qualify for free and reduced lunch in the district.
The other change made to the budget deals with the Missouri Charter Public School Commission The plan cuts $250,000 from the commission and includes language that requires the offices to be located within 10 miles of Jefferson City.
Next week the budget will be debated, and possibly amended, by the House Budget Committee. Once they finish their work, the budget will be debated and voted on by the entire House, before moving on to the Senate.
MSTA supported a proposed change in working after retirement in the Public Education Employee Retirement System (PEERS) in a bill that was heard in the Senate Health and Pensions Committee this week.
SB1045 (Romine) would allow a person that is drawing a benefit from the Public School Retirement System (PSRS) to go back to work in a position in a district that is covered under the PEERS system and make up to 50 percent of the minimum teacher’s salary, and will not contribute to the retirement system or earn creditable service. The employer’s contribution rate will be paid by the hiring district.
Currently a PSRS retiree that goes to work in a PEERS position is only allowed to work for 550 hours and make 50 percent of the pay for that position. Any retiree that exceeds that limit would not be eligible to receive their retirement allowance for any month where they are in excess of the limits.
MSTA testified in support of SB1045. MSTA supports a limitation that is based on salary and not number of hours worked. Currently, there are retired teachers that go back to work driving a bus and end up not being able to work the entire school year because they hit the 550 hour limit. Under this proposal, a retired teacher could return to work driving a bus and work as much as they wanted as long as they did not make more than $12,500 (the current minimum teacher’s salary is $25,000).
A pair of bills dealing with computer science courses and STEM awareness are moving forward in the legislature.
HB1623 (Fitzwater) and SB894 & 921 (Libla) require that before July 1, 2019, DESE must develop a high school graduation policy that allows a student to fulfill one unit of academic credit with a district-approved computer science course for any math, science, or practical arts unit required for high school graduation. The graduation policy must require that all students have either taken all courses that require end-of-course exams or are on track to take all courses that require end-of-course exams under the Missouri School Improvement Program.
A school district must communicate to students electing to replace a mathematics unit with a computer science unit that some institutions of higher education may require 4 units of math for college admission. The parent of each student who chooses to take advanced computer science in place of a fourth unit of math shall sign and submit a document acknowledging that not taking a fourth unit of math may have an adverse effect on college admission decisions.
DESE and the Coordinating Board for Higher Education must cooperate in developing and implementing academic performance standards relating to computer science, however, the ultimate responsibility remains with the State Board of Education.
Before July 1, 2019, the SBOE shall convene a workgroup to develop and recommend academic performance standards relating to computer science. These standards shall be adopted and implemented beginning in the 2020-2021 school year. The Board shall also develop a procedure by which any licensed teacher who demonstrates sufficient content knowledge of computer science shall receive a special endorsement on his or her license signifying this specialized knowledge.
A “Computer Science Fund” would be established for the purpose of providing teacher professional development programs relating to computer science. The SBOE would award grants from the fund to eligible entities who have submitted an application to DESE.
The bill also creates the “STEM Career Awareness Program” to increase STEM career awareness among students in grades six through eight. The program shall introduce students to a wide variety of STEM careers and technology through an online-based STEM curriculum. By January 1, 2019, DESE shall solicit proposals and select a provider for the online program using specified criteria or choose a third-party nonprofit entity to implement the statewide program, solicit proposals, and select a provider. The program will be supported by the “STEM Career Awareness Program Fund” and be implemented beginning with 2019-20 school year.
House Elementary and Secondary Education
HB1493 (Wood) specifies that if a teacher has earned 30 or more graduate or undergraduate-level course hours in a closely related subject taught by the teacher, he or she shall be considered by the school district to have a master’s degree in the academic teaching field for the purposes of determining salary compensation. If a district employee holds a master’s degree in educational administration and earns additional graduate-level credit hours beyond the master’s degree, their compensation shall not be increased on the salary schedule used by the district due to the additional credit hours unless they hold an administrative position.
HB1363 (Kidd) Beginning in the 2019-2020 school year the practicing teacher assistance program must offer and include at least two hours of in-service training provided by each local school district for all practicing teachers in the district regarding suicide prevention.
HCS/HB2411 (Pike) requires the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education to develop a process for recognition of a school district’s school library information and technology program before July 1, 2019. Voted do pass with substitute.
HB2192 (Redmon) authorizes the treasurer of a seven-director school district, when entering into a bond to the State of Missouri, to use one or more sureties instead of the two or more sureties required by current law. Voted do pass.
HCS/HB2129 (Cookson) requires that beginning in school year 2019-20 students in public or charter high schools shall receive 30 minutes of instruction providing information on decisions about organ, eye, and tissue donation before graduation. Voted do pass with substitute.
HB1348 (Black) specifies that the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education shall handle career and technical student organization funds as it deems necessary. Voted do pass.
HB1569 (Christofanelli) Any public school student whose parent or legal guardian has been called to duty for, and will deploy within the next month to a combat zone or combat support posting, is on leave from a deployment to a combat zone or combat support posting, or has returned within the previous month from deployment to a combat zone or combat support posting will be excused from a specified number of absences, no less than five, from school to visit the parent or guardian. Any assignments given by the student’s teacher shall be obtained and completed before the student’s return to school. Voted do pass.
HCS/HB1435 (Sommer) requires school districts to establish a state-approved gifted program if 3 percent or more of the students are determined to be gifted. Districts with average daily attendance of 350 or fewer students are not required to have a teacher certificated to teach gifted education, but any teacher providing gifted instruction without a gifted-teaching certificate must participate in six hours per year of professional development regarding gifted services. Voted do pass with substitute.
HCS/HB1606 (Gannon) provides a high school equivalency certificate applicant with the opportunity to voluntarily submit his or her contact information for the purpose of evaluating college and career placement rates of certificate applicants. The bill, subject to appropriations, would also require the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education to subsidize the examination fee for first-time exam takers.
HCS/HB1408 (Spencer) makes various changes to virtual education.
SB687 (Sater) allows school districts to allocate less than 1 percent but no less than .5 percent of moneys received under the school foundation formula to the professional development committee of the district when certain requirements are met.
SCS/SB949 (Emery) requires school districts and charter schools to establish a reading intervention program for students in kindergarten to third grade. The program shall be provided to those students who exhibit a reading deficiency or have a formal diagnosis of dyslexia. A student who exhibits a reading deficiency must receive an individual reading improvement plan no later than 30 days after the identification of the reading deficiency for students in first through third grade and by January 31st for kindergarten students.
Beginning in the 2020-2021 school year, students who are not reading at grade level by the end of the second grade shall receive intensive reading intervention. Each school district and charter school must review student reading improvement plans and provide services. Each school district and charter school must also establish an intensive acceleration class for any student not reading proficient or above on the third-grade state assessment.
Summer reading camps must be provided to all third-grade students scoring at the lowest achievement level on the third grade statewide English language arts assessment. School districts and charter schools must annually report certain information relating to student reading proficiency to the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education by September 1st of each year. The Department will establish a uniform format for the reporting of such information. Voted do pass.
HB1665 (Swan) allows the State Board of Education to grant an initial visiting scholar certificate as a license to teach in public schools. Voted do pass.
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