The Missouri legislature has taken up a lot of bills affecting education. Here’s what you should know | KCUR

Goff Justice announces a $20 million expansion of nursing education programs

Education is always one of the biggest topics in Jefferson City as legislators decide how much of the state budget it will be.

Issues that have gained traction during the pandemic — how race and LGBT issues are handled in schools, and what role parents and government should play in their children’s education — are now coming to the head of the Missouri legislature.

Here’s a look at the dozens of education-related bills making their way through the state legislature and how far they’ve come in both houses.

open registration

The Missouri Senate will soon take over controversial bill It would create an open enrollment system in the state’s public schools.

The bill was narrowly approved by the Missouri House Last month Students will be allowed to register outside the school district in which they live. School districts will not have to accept transfer students if they withdraw from the open enrollment system, but up to 3% of students in any district can leave each year.

Representative Brad Pollitt, R-Sedalia and chair of the Elementary and Secondary Education Committee, Said the need for “parental choice” And the composition of the reconfigured Senate is the reason he saw open registration finally reach the governor’s office.

“It’s not the people in Jefferson City who make the decisions in their district. The taxpayers of that district have that power in this bill,” Pollitt said. “And if 3% of those people want to leave a district every year, why are we holding them in that district?”

Local money will remain in the student’s home district, but state and federal dollars will follow them to their new school. Critics worry that this could lead to defunding already struggling districts and increase the segregation of public schools.

Rep. Maggie Norrenburn, R-K., said she’s already witnessed how charter schools have negatively affected Kansas City’s public schools over the past few decades.

“What it’s really going to do is just create more winners and losers in our education system,” Norrenburn said. “It really only benefits those who are able to navigate another level of bureaucracy quite frankly, just like our charter schools are today and you have to fill out this application early to enter this lottery.”

School districts and educational organizations came out in opposition to the bill, including the Cooperating School Districts of Greater Kansas City, the Missouri Association for Rural Education, and the Missouri State Teachers Association.

The push to open enrollment comes as Republicans prioritize the School Choice Act amid growing criticism of public schools. Missouri legislators They also follow up on an invoice It would expand eligibility and funding for the new private school voucher program launched last summer.

The bill was referred to the Senate Education and Workforce Development Committee on March 30 and a public hearing was held on April 4. If the bill passes, transfers will begin in the 2024-2025 school year.

Legislation targeting transgender youth

Missouri lawmakers debated a wave of anti-trans bills in this legislative session, reflecting a national effort to pass hundreds of laws targeting LGBT rights.

Missouri Senate Passed on a couple of bills last month Prohibit transgender minors from receiving gender-affirming health care and participating in sports that are compatible with their gender identity. Both bills faced several days of filibuster before approval and still need to pass the House. The bills are scheduled to be heard in a House of Representatives committee on Tuesday.

One of the bills It would prevent transgender children under the age of 18 from accessing transition-related health care such as puberty blockers and hormonal therapies.

the other bill Athletes are prohibited from participating in a sport “assigned to the biological sex opposite of the student’s biological sex as properly stated on the student’s official birth certificate.” The ban applies to public, private, and private schools through the university level.

Supporters of the bills say their purpose is to protect children.

Tori Schafer, deputy director for policy and campaigns at the American Civil Liberties Union of Missouri, He said these bills Putting students’ mental health and well-being at risk.

“We know that having the opportunity to participate in sports leads to positive outcomes for students, which include things like better grades, more homework completion, higher educational and career aspirations, and improved self-esteem,” Schaefer said. “Efforts to prevent transgender students from participating in school sports actually do the exact opposite.”

The Missouri High School Activities Association already has it Guidelines On Sports Participation for Transgender Athletes. Associate Executive Director Stacy Schroeder said in an email that if the Missouri legislature updates state law it will supersede the association’s bylaws or policies if they conflict. She said the association will work with member schools to meet the requirements of state law.

Both bills received second reading in the House of Representatives. If passed, it would expire four years after it went into effect but lawmakers can extend it.

Teacher salaries and retention and financing of education

Missouri pays its teachers Some of the lowest salaries In the nation, however, there is some movement regarding legislation that could change that.

The General Assembly approved a Grant program To help last year’s wage increase – but it’s temporary and regions still have to foot 30% of the bill. Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle introduced several bills in this session to permanently raise teachers’ salaries, but they have differing ideas about how that might happen.

law Project It would address some teacher salary issues that have been passed in the House of Representatives and are awaiting consideration in the Senate. It would raise the teacher minimum salary from $25,000 to $38,000 starting in the 2024-2025 school year and allow districts to raise pay scales for “hard-to-recruit” fields of study or “hard-to-recruit” schools. Like last year, counties can still apply for a grant to help pay those salaries for the first few years of the raise.

The bill would also remove a cap on how much the state’s education financing formula grows each year. state financing formula received criticism on how their reliance on local sources of funding for schools creates inequalities in school districts and leaves some vulnerable.

There are also efforts to address staffing shortages in schools in other ways. Senate Bill passed Allowing retired teachers to work for more years in areas with teacher shortages and uncertified jobs such as bus drivers or cafeteria workers, without jeopardizing their retirement benefits. A House bill that addresses multiple issues regarding teacher salaries includes similar language. last year, Similar legislation made it easier For retired teachers to act as a substitute.

Proposed state budget It was approved by the House of Representatives It would save $10 billion in K-12 spending, fully fund school transportation, and some funding for Pre-K.

Parental rights

Senate Bill passed That links multiple policies regarding transparency and parental rights, as well as restrictions on how race is talked about in schools.

The bill would create a state database of curricula, textbooks and other educational materials called the Missouri Gateway to Educational Transparency and Accountability. Citizens will have access to this information for each school, and there will be additional requirements around providing information to parents within certain timeframes.

The Missouri State Teachers Association has concerns about what will be done with this information and what the legislation will mean for teachers.

“If they have to do extra administrative work for any kind of reference material that they’re using, I think it’s just an extra burden that doesn’t benefit student achievement, but is really there to create this huge database,” said Matt Michelson. MSTA Director of Education Policy.

The bill also includes language regulating “discussion of certain concepts and beliefs” in schools. This includes the idea that individuals, because of their identity, “bear collective guilt and are inherently responsible for actions committed by others in the past.”

The House version of the state budget also eliminates funding for programs that have become a target of conservative activists. Throughout the budget, funding for programs or staff related to diversity, equity, and inclusion, including public higher education institutions and the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, is prohibited. Senate Republicans have indicated that they will not let the dispute over such language derail the budget process. The chairman of the chamber’s appropriations committee, Sen. Lincoln Hough, R-Springfield, said he would not include the ban.

earlier in the session, Legislation known as the “Don’t Say Like Me” Bill It narrowly passed the Senate committee. The legislation would prohibit teachers and other school personnel from discussing gender identity or sexual orientation. This law has not seen any further action in the legislature for nearly two months.

Library funding is in flux

Last month, the Missouri House of Representatives passed a version of the state budget that removed $4.5 million in funding for public libraries.

While the funding only affects public libraries, it was removed in response to a lawsuit involving libraries in public schools. The Missouri Library Association and the Missouri Association of School Librarians have filed a lawsuit with the American Civil Liberties Union to challenge a law that led to the removal of hundreds of books from libraries across the state last year.

“I don’t think we should support this effort, so we’re going to appropriate the funding,” said Rep. Cody Smith, R-Carthage.

Librarian groups say government funding has not paid for the lawsuit.

“Our organizations are led by volunteers,” said Melissa Corey, MASL President. “Members can join voluntarily through a membership fee, but we’re not a state-funded organization. The other big part of this is that the ACLU offers its services for free, so it’s totally free.”

The budget is now being debated by the Senate and could still be significantly changed before its final form. Senator Hogg He told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch Library funding will go back to the budget.

Sports betting

The Senate spent hours debating this week A bill that would make sports betting legal in Missouri, but the legislation has yet to be voted on. The House of Representatives passed its version of the sports betting bill in March. Taxes from the proceeds will go to the Education Fund.

Sarah Kellogg of STLPR contributed to this report.