Legislative Report Submitted by Mary Eileen Rufkahr

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The 2016 legislative session for the Missouri House began at noon on Wednesday, January 6, 2016.   Both chambers are now led by new presiding officers.  House Speaker Todd Richardson replaced former Speaker John Diehl, who resigned just days before the end of last year’s Regular Session.  Senate President Pro Tem Ron Richard replaced Senator Tom Dempsey, who resigned during the interim.

Richardson emphasized, among other things, the need for quality educational opportunities for all students.

The Joint Committee on Education met on February 17 to discuss matters relating to the University of Missouri with the UM President, UMC Chancellor and Board of Curators.

The House gave final approval (Third Reading vote) to HCS/HBs 1646, 2132 and 1621 (Swan) on February 18. The bill would add additional state requirements for the required testing on institutions of government. The bill allows districts to continue to require a locally-determined test regarding the Missouri Constitution and U.S. Constitution and institutions of government and adds a requirement to also use questions similar to those in the citizenship exam used by the U.S. government. The committee adopted an amendment for each bill to continue the existing requirement regarding testing on institutions of government and require instruction regarding American civics. The House adopted two technical amendments. The House rejected HA 3 (Ellington) to require every high school student to pass a world history course.

The House Select Committee on Education met on February 18 and voted to approve several bills already heard by the education-related committees: HCS/HB 1451 (Wood) modifies many provisions relating to charter schools, including financial stress, closure, academic performance standards, approval of charters and expansion of the transfer law to include charter schools.  The HCS will add the provisions of HB 1667 to provide that charter schools become eligible to receive state funding for early childhood education at the same time as the district in which they are located becomes eligible.

HB 1611 (Swan) requires school districts to establish comprehensive guidance and counseling programs for students attending school in the district.

HB 1643 (Hicks) makes CPR instruction a high school graduation requirement. The bill requires students to participate in a 30 minute CPR program at some point in their high school program in either physical education or health class.

The House Rules Committee met on February 17 and approved several Consent bills, including: HB 1710 (Lair) to apply the existing 550 hour limitation on PSRS retirees working for a school district to teaching in a district while employed by a third-party such as employment services.

HB 1602 (Ruth) changes the laws regarding the appointment of school board members in the event of vacancies.

HB 1610 (Swan) broadens the definition of schools allowed to cooperate with public high schools to offer post-secondary course options.

HB 2186 (Ross) allows school districts to develop policies on student recognition for participation in the Constitution Project of the Missouri Supreme Court.

The Senate Education Committee met on February 17 to hear several bills:

SB 777 (Munzlinger) would allow students enrolled in approved virtual institutions, such as Western Governors’ University, to participate in the Access Missouri Financial Assistance program.

SB 941 (Dixon) exempts yoga teacher training courses, programs, and schools from provisions regulating proprietary schools.

SB 996 (Pearce) excludes funds designated by taxpayers in an urban district as local early childhood education funds from the local tax revenue calculation used to provide funding to charter schools that have declared themselves as a local educational agency.

SB 997 (Pearce) establishes several provisions relating to higher education.

The committee also approved several bills on February 17: SCS/SBs 586 and SB 651 (Wasson) to revise the definitions used in calculating state aid for schools. SB 827 (Sifton) creates the Legislative Task Force on Dyslexia.

SCS/SBs 857 and SB 712 (Romine) revises the Access Missouri Financial Assistance Program by adding eligibility requirements much like those required under the A+ Schools program and requires the Coordinating Board for Higher Education to establish a procedure for the reimbursement of the student’s portion of fees for any dual credit courses.

SCS/SB 855 (Pearce) establishes a tuition grant program for spouses and children of war veterans.

SCS/SB 638 (Riddle) adds additional state requirements for the required testing on institutions of government. The bill allows districts to continue to require a locally-determined test regarding the Missouri Constitution and U.S. Constitution and institutions of government and adds a requirement to also use questions similar to those in the citizenship exam used by the U.S. government.

The House Elementary and Secondary Committee heard a number of bills on February 16: HB 1429 (Sommer) would add an additional school formula weight for each gifted student to the calculation of the school district’s weighted average daily attendance.

HB 1656 (Dunn) will require board policy and staff training in suicide awareness and prevention for public school teachers.

HB 2178 (Higdon) requires high schools to offer driver’s education courses and grant a unit of elective credit.

HB 1614 (Swan) will authorize a 50% tax credit for contributions to school foundations that provide funding for unmet health, hunger, and hygiene needs for children in school. The committee then voted to approve the bill with a technical amendment.

HB 2379 (Swan) requires that public schools shall screen students for dyslexia and related disorders.

HB 1888 (Dogan) establishes education savings accounts. The accounts would be funded by diverting the school district’s state formula funding to a personal account to fund home school or private school tuition.

The committee also voted to approve the following bills heard previously:

HB 2241 (Dohrman) requires coursework addressing the Bill of Rights in secondary schools and in college and university introductory courses in American government and American history. The committee approved a technical amendment to the bill.

HB 1750 (Roden) specifies that the Pledge of Allegiance must be recited at least once per school day in schools supported by public funds.

HB 1871 (Cookson) requires school financial audits to contain certain information relating to extracurricular activities within the school district.

HJR 59 (Lauer) proposes a constitutional amendment regarding when and the amount that a school district in a first classification charter county can become indebted.

HB 1928 (Burlison) creates the Legislative Task Force on Dyslexia and requires DESE to employ a dyslexia specialist and develop professional development programs for school students.

The committee postponed action on HB 2123 (Spencer), as several amendments are being considered for the bill. The bill would establish the Missouri Course Access Program. The bill establishes a new course access program related to MoVIP. The program is available for students enrolled in public school.

The House Emerging Issues in Education Committee heard HB 2388 (Fitzwater) which would change provisions of law related to youth sports brain injury prevention.

The committee also voted to approve the following bills:

HB 2238 (Gannon) authorizes financial assistance to cover part or all of the cost of the Missouri high school equivalency examination for first time test takers.

HB 1792 (Lauer) adds making a terrorist threat and statutory rape to the list of offenses that school administrators must report.

 

 

The House Higher Education Committee heard several bills on February 16:

HB 1678 (Solon) would require public colleges and universities to implement memorandums of understanding with law enforcement with respect to sexual assaults on campus.

HB 2237 (Rowden) regards University of Missouri extension councils.

HCR 62 (Peters) urges the UM board of curators to present the original Lloyd Gaines collection to the Smithsonian Institution for the purpose of national preservation.

The House Ways and Means Committee heard HB 2307 (Bahr) on February 16. The bill would establish education scholarship accounts. The accounts would be funded by tax credits for donations to third-party organizations that would administer the education savings accounts used to fund home school or private school tuition.

On the national front, the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) was signed by President Obama on December 10, 2015. This bipartisan measure reauthorizes the 50-year-old Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), the nation’s national education law.

The previous version of the law, the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act, was enacted in 2002.  The law was scheduled for revision in 2007; in 2010, the Obama administration joined a call from educators and families to create an updated law that focused on the goal of fully preparing all students for success in college and careers.

Key points included in ESSA are:

  • Holding all students to high academic standards that prepare them for success in college and careers.
  • Ensuring accountability by guaranteeing that when students fall behind, states redirect resources into what works to help them and their schools improve, with a particular focus on the very lowest-performing schools, high schools with high dropout rates, and schools with achievement gaps.
  • Empowering state and local decision-makers to develop their own strong systems for school improvement based upon evidence.

Reducing the burden of testing on students and teachers, making sure that tests don’t crowd out teaching and