Mary Eileen Rufkahr
The campaign season has ended which means state leaders are now in the process of delivering action on the promises they made during the most recent election.
VIRTUAL COURSE ACCESS
The Missouri House gave final approval to HCS/HB 138 (Spencer) on February 23rd by a vote of 124 – 31. This bill would establish a new course access program by revising the current MoVIP. The program is available for students enrolled full-time in a public school. The House adopted HA 1(Wood) to remove the two course limit on the number of virtual courses a student may enroll in under the program.
ADULT HIGH SCHOOLS
The Senate Economic Development Committee heard SB 406 (Wasson) on February 21st. The bill would establish adult high schools to be operated by a Missouri nonprofit organization.
The Senate Education Committee heard three bills on February 21st:
SB 98 (Emery) would require all school restrooms, locker rooms, and shower rooms accessible for use by multiple students shall be designated for and use by male or female students only.
SB 313 (Koenig) proposes to create a new 100% state tax credit capped at $25 million per year for taxpayer contributions to third-party organizations that will use some of the proceeds to fund accounts that parents can use to pay private school tuition and other expenses for their students. The bill is currently limited to students with disabilities, whose parents are active military personnel or who are wards of the state.
SB 362 (Hummel) will provide instruction in Braille reading and writing as part of a student’s individualized education plan unless instruction in Braille is determined not appropriate for the child.
The House Elementary and Secondary Education Committee heard seven bills on February 20th:
HB 67 (Ruth) proposes to appoint a non-voting teacher representative to the State Board of Education.
HB 257 (Pfautsch) would require each school district to establish a policy allowing acceleration for certain students.
HB 310 (Vescovo) plans to require superintendents and assistant superintendents to be employed by school districts only by written contracts. The bill also specifies that such contracts shall allow no more than one year’s pay if the superintendent is dismissed, essentially reducing the maximum contract length from three years to two years.
HB 670 (Sommer) asks that districts with a state-approved gifted education program have a process which allows parents or guardians to appeal a determination that their child does not qualify for gifted services.
HB 675 (Dohrman) plans to reduce State Board of Education terms from eight years to four years and enact term limits of eight years for board members.
HJR 29 (Dohrman) proposes a constitutional amendment to reduce State Board of Education terms from eight years to four years.
HB695 (Pfautsch) would allow students to satisfy the physical education requirement for high school graduation by participating in two sports within the same school year.
The House Pensions Committee voted to approve the following bills on February 20th:
HCS/HB 304 (Pike) will create a divorce popup for PSRS and other school retirees, provided the divorce decree grants sole retention by the retired person of all rights in the retirement allowance. The HCS makes only technical corrections to the wording of the bill.
HB 305 (Pike) plans to provide that PSRS retirees who are teaching part time in school districts and employed by a private agency, must also abide by the 550 restriction.
The Senate Health and Pensions Committee heard two bills pertaining to school retirement on February 22nd:
SB 394 (Romine) would create a divorce popup for PSRS and other school retirees, provided the divorce decree grants sole retention by the retired person of all rights in the retirement allowance.
SB 409 (Koenig) creates a second tier for the St. Louis Public School Retirement System. SB 409 reduces the benefit factor for new hires and for new creditable service for existing staff, gradually increases the employee contribution rate from 5% to 9% and changes from a Rule of 85 to a Rule of 80 for retirement.
The House Higher Education Committee heard three bills on February 22nd:
HB 733 (Chipman) will prohibit public institutions of higher education fromrequiring students to live on campus, except for first-year freshman who may be required to live in campus housing for their first year.
HB 814 (Chipman) requires each public college and university to post on its website information for each course offered at the institution, including the course syllabus, reading list, attendance requirements, extra credit opportunities, and a description of required assignments and projects.
HB 832 (Chipman) would require public institutions of higher education to post certain information on their public websites.
Since coming into office in mid-January, Governor Eric Greitens has been focusing on Missouri’s budget. Higher education funding cuts topped $82 million, with Harris- Stowe State University losing over $101,000 for graduate programs and Southeast Missouri State University also losing over $101,000 for a cybersecurity training program.
Greitens cut $14 million on various school programs, including $8.6 million for busing and $194,000 for teacher training and development programs. Another $2.9 million was cut for the urban teaching initiative.