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MSTA Action – May 5, 2017

MSTA Action – May 5, 2017

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Voucher bill continues to advance

The current MSTA call to action in opposition to SB313 is still active going into the final week of session. In a break from common practice, this bill was referred to the House General Laws Committee. Typically, legislation relating to education is sent to the House Elementary and Secondary Education Committee. SB313 was heard by the committee and voted out the same day without any amendments.

SB313 (Koenig) is an omnibus education bill that includes language relating to student transfers, vouchers, transportation hardships, mandatory retention of students, and a phase-in of payments for early childhood education. This dramatic shift in education policy would be harmful to students, families and communities and raises serious concerns regarding a loss of local control of public education.

SB313 would create a $25 million tax credit funded voucher program for certain students. Students in foster care, eligible for an IEP under IDEA, and students who have a parent in active duty military service would be allowed to apply for the program. The voucher would allow them to leave their district of residence and obtain an education savings account equal to the state adequacy target to use for education purposes. There are currently no accountability measures for private schools that would be receiving taxpayer dollars, and the public would be unable to determine whether students who attend these schools are making progress. Over a 10-year period, this provision alone would divert more than $250 million from the general revenue fund. Additional information on education savings accounts in other states has shown the ability for those purchasing tax credits under the program to “double dip” and profit off donations to the non-governmental organizations that will administer the tax credits.

SB313 includes language that would allow certain students to be granted transportation hardship transfers, a form of open enrollment. Any student who lives more than 15 miles from his or her local school and 5 miles closer to an attendance center serving the same grade level in an adjoining district would be allowed to transfer. Under the current language, there is no gatekeeper to determine if the transfer would be appropriate and the district of residence would pay the tuition of the receiving district.

This bill also address the transferring of students from unaccredited schools, and would expand the possibility of student transfers to affect school districts across the state. The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education would be required to classify each school district in the state with one of the following designations: unaccredited, provisionally accredited, accredited, and accredited with distinction. Each school attendance center would also receive a classification separate from the district as a whole. Students who participated in the transfer program as it existed on July 1, 2016 will be allowed to participate under the same terms that governed the transfers in school year 2016-2017, with changes to the tuition amount. Any student enrolled in an unaccredited attendance center for at least the full school year prior to transferring would be allowed to transfer to an accredited attendance center in the district of resident that offers the student’s grade level of enrollment. A student who has attempted and is unable to transfer to an accredited attendance center within his or her district of residence would be allowed to transfer to an adjoining district or an approved charter school in an adjoining district. School districts and charter schools would adopt tuition rates paid by the sending district. Students would also have the option to transfer to a nonsectarian private school located in the student’s district of residence. This legislation would also require each district that has students transfer out of the district to select a school building within another district in which the sending district must provide transportation for transfer students.

SB313 also includes changes to law addressing mandatory retention of students. The bill would prohibit provisionally and unaccredited districts in St. Louis County from promoting a student from fifth grade to sixth grade or from eight grade to ninth grade if the student is two years or more behind on local formative assessment systems. Research shows that students that are retained are more likely to drop out of school. In many cases, individual plans and interventions provide better outcomes for students. MSTA resolutions support local districts maintaining local standards for student promotion.

The omnibus bill includes a provision that would phase in the use of formula monies for districts providing early childhood services. The cost of providing early childhood education services as outlined in current law would become effective upon full funding of the foundation formula. The bill would change the program to be phased in over five years, increasing by 20 percent each year until fully implemented. This change would limit the ability of school districts to draw down funding guaranteed under current law.

In the House General Laws committee, MSTA testified against the bill. There were many concerns raised about flaws within the bill, yet no changes were made to the bill for fear that a changed version would not make it through the Senate before session adjourns for the year. The bill will next be heard in the Rules-Legislative Oversight Committee before being referred to the Fiscal Oversight Committee. If passed, members of the House will have one week to evaluate a 72-page bill that dramatically shifts Missouri education policy. The official fiscal analysis of the bill is 49 pages, including many new costs. Typically, fiscal notes for bills are only several pages long. If the bill is passed without changes, it will be sent to the governor for his consideration.

There is still time to act by visiting www.msta.org/sb313. MSTA member outreach is making a difference, and opposition is continuing to grow to defeat this bad legislation.

Budget goes to governor

The legislature has sent Missouri’s $27.8 billion budget for next fiscal year to the governor.

HB2 (Fitzpatrick) includes full funding for the foundation formula. This is a $45 million increase over funding for the current school year. Transportation funding was also held at the current year appropriated amount.

With the legislature facing a $600 million deficit, funding for K-12 was certainly a priority. Some programs that received funding last year will no longer be funded. Those eliminated programs include math and science tutoring, Scholars and Fine Arts Academy, school safety training grants, early grade literacy program and funds to implement trauma informed instruction.

The Conference Committee worked out the difference in the funding for assessments. The final budget does not include an increase for the statewide assessments. It is not known if there is enough in the appropriation to continue the statewide ACT tests. Other assessments will be funded, as well as the development of new assessments that are aligned with standards developed in Missouri.

The budget does include $5 million for the “public placement fund,” which reimburses schools for educating students placed within a non-domicile or state-domicile district by the Children’s Division, the Department of Mental Health, the Division of Youth Services or the court.

Other programs that received funding include broadband expansion ($6 million), STEM Pilot Program ($100,000), Teach for America ($750,000), and pre-school quality assurance program ($59,000).

House Elementary and Secondary Education Committee amends Senate bills.

As we head into the final week of the legislative session we start to see bills get larger as legislators attach their bills onto other bills in an attempt to get them passed. The House Elementary and Secondary Education Committee loaded up two bills this week in hopes of getting them across the finish line before May 12.

SB300 & 306 (Sater) started as a bill to modify the sureties used when a school district enters into a bond to the state. While the bill was debated by the Senate, a provision was added to modify the terms of the elected Kansas City School Board. The House Committee added the following provisions:

HB97 (Swan) allows the State Board of Education to grant an initial visiting scholar certificate as a license to teach in public schools. The applicant must be employed in a content area in which the individual has an academic degree or professional experience. He or she may only teach classes for ninth grade or higher and the hiring school district must verify that the applicant will be employed as part of a business education partnership initiative designed to build career pathways systems for students. The certificate will last for one year and applicants can renew it a maximum of two times if they complete the professional development requirements of the school and district. They must also maintain a satisfactory performance-based evaluation.

HB138 (Spencer) changes the Missouri Virtual Instruction Program (MOVIP) to The Missouri Course Access and Virtual School Program and allows any eligible student to enroll in program courses of his or her choice to be paid by the school district or charter school, if the student has been enrolled full-time in a public school, including a public charter school, for at least one semester immediately prior to enrolling in the program, and the course is approved by the school principal. A school district or charter school shall pay, 14 percent of the state adequacy target for any single, year-long course and no more than 7 percent of the state adequacy target for any single, semester-long course. School districts and charter schools may negotiate with the course providers for a lower cost. Payment for a full-time virtual school student shall not exceed the state adequacy target.If a student who is a candidate for A+ tuition reimbursement enrolls in a course under the act, the school shall attribute no less than 95% attendance to any such student who has completed such course. Individual learning plans shall be developed for all students enrolled in more than two full-time program courses. The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education shall establish an authorization process for course providers and authorize those providers that submit all necessary information and offer courses that align to state academic standards. The State Board of Education must also provide an easily accessible link for course vendors on the program website, allow anyone to submit course for approval, and require vendors to accept monthly payments for students enrolled in their courses. Courses already approved through MOVIP shall automatically be authorized to participate in the program.

HB948 (Bahr) By July 1, 2018, the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (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 science unit required for high school graduation.

HB253 (Swan) Currently, a school district is authorized to create and enter into a partnership with area career centers, comprehensive high schools, industry, and businesses to develop and implement a pathway for students to: enroll in a program of career and technical education while in high school; participate and complete an internship or apprenticeship during their final year of high school; obtain the industry certification or credentials applicable to their program or career and technical education and internship or apprenticeship. This bill allows a school district to rely on technical coursework and skills assessments developed for industry-recognized certificates and credentials. The bill requires the Career and Technical Education Advisory Council to annually review, update, approve, and recommend a list of industry certifications, state-issued professional licenses, and occupational competency assessments. A school district may use the list as a resource in establishing programs of study that meet their regional workforce. This bill also modifies the composition of the Career and Technical Education Advisory Council by adding the Director of the Department of Economic Development, or his or her designee.

HB254 (Swan) excludes funds designated by taxpayers in Kansas City school district as local early childhood education funds from the local tax revenue calculation used to provide funding to charter schools.

The committee also made modifications to SB434 (Sater). Currently, school districts are required to allocate 1 percent of monies received under the school foundation formula to the professional development committee of the district. Under this bill, school districts may, by majority vote of the board, allocate less than 1 percent but no less than .5 percent when such district is appropriated less than 25 percent of the allowable costs of providing pupil transportation under the school foundation formula. The provisions of this bill would automatically sunset in year 2023.

They added all the provisions that were attached to SB300 & 306 that are listed above along with HB254 (Swan) that would allow Kansas City to establish a tax for early childhood education.

These bills will now go to the House floor for debate and possibly more amendments will be added. All changes made to the bill will have to either be approved by the Senate, or worked out in a conference committee that is made up of members of both the House and Senate. Any report submitted by the conference committee will have to be approved by both the House and Senate.

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