The 2019 Missouri legislative session starts on Wednesday. Many lawmakers have already filed bills that could have a major impact on the state’s education system. Here is a list of bills to watch when the session starts.
Bills expanding school choice
SB 51 will finally give all Missouri families in metropolitan areas access to charter schools. The bill will expand the area where charter schools can form to any charter county or in a city with a population greater than 30,000. Currently, charter schools are limited to just two school districts in Missouri. The bill will also strengthen safeguards to close poorly performing charter schools. The new legislation will also help new charter schools access buildings that are not being used by school districts.
Empowerment Scholarship Accounts
Bills are already filed in both the House and Senate that will create Missouri’s first ESA. These bills will give thousands of students a chance to attend the school that best fits their needs. HB 34 and SB 160 will create a $50 million tax-credit funded scholarship fund. Any student living in a charter county or a city or town with a population over 30,000 can apply for scholarship funds. The scholarship funds can be used for:
Tuition or fees at a qualified school
Textbooks required by a qualified school
Educational therapies or services
Tuition or fees for a private virtual school
Fees for tests
Fees for management of the empowerment scholarship account
Services provided by a public school, including individual classes and extracurricular programs
Computer hardware or other devices, and
Fees for summer education programs and specialized after44 school education program
HB 33 would create a similar funding structure for Bryce’s Law which provides scholarships specifically for children with special needs.
Bills changing how things are taught
Several bills have been filed that change what is taught in the classroom or how it is taught. These changes range from ensuring reading success to teaching cursive writing. SB 73 would require every school to have a reading intervention plan for K-4 students. It would help many low-income, minority, ELL students and other struggling readers. HB 136 would require districts with a significant number of gifted students to create a gifted program. HB 54 would require students to know how to use cursive writing by fifth grade. HB 267 would allow districts to offer social studies courses on the Hebrew scriptures and the New Testament. HB 221 would allow students us A+ funds to cover dual-enrollment costs while in high school. HB 310 would help bring trauma-informed practices to schools. The bill would require teacher training institutions to require future teachers to show proficiency in trauma interventions.
Bills focused on parent involvement
Three bills are focused on creating better interactions between schools and parents. HB 58 (and HB 129) would create the Missouri Parent/Teacher Involvement Act. The act would require school staff to participate in community meetings or home visits to improve communications with parents. The act would also require districts to have a policy on parental involvement. HB 411 would establish a Council for Community Education in DESE. This council would make recommendations on community education programs.
Bills focused on improving how schools work
A number of bills focus less on what is happening in the classroom and more on how the system is working. HB 281 would allow districts to use virtual education to make up as many as 60 hours of missed class time due to inclement weather. HB 361 would change when school boards are elected. Currently, school board members are elected in primary or preliminary elections. This limits the number of people involved in the election process. HB 361 would move all school board elections to the November general election. SB 80 would address how teachers are retained and rewarded for their hard work. Under this bill teacher’s pay raises would be tied to their performance in the classroom. This will provide a clear incentive for quality teachers. The bill would also make it easier for districts to fire teachers who are not performing well.