Newly elected Missouri Governor Eric Greitens has announced that K-12 education reform will be one of his top priorities. He has called for more prudent use of public funds, and for a broader range of educational options for parents. The Missouri General Assembly has answered the call with a slew of bills addressing everything from education savings accounts to technical certification programs in high-schools. It is too soon to tell which, if any, of the bills will become law, but the sheer volume of “education reform” legislation moving through the process speaks volumes about the general assembly’s appetite for reform. Recent legislative activity includes:
- Senate Bill 32, sponsored by Sen. Ed Emery (R-Lamar), would create Education Savings Accounts for students with learning, development or physical disabilities. Sen Emery presented a revised version during a hearing before the Senate Government Reform Committee which would include all students in Missouri. Beginning on or after January 1, 2017, a taxpayer may make a qualifying contribution to an educational assistance organization and claim a tax credit. Educational assistance organizations must meet certain requirements. The tax credit is capped at $25 million; funds are administered by the State Treasurer and distributed through education assistance programs that will award the funds to parents of qualified students through a debit account. Many education groups voiced their oppositions to the measure citing lack of funding for the current foundation formula, lack of financial oversight of the schools receiving the funds, and lack of accountability. Opponents testified schools receiving funds should be held to the same standards as public schools.
- Senate Bill 33, sponsored by Sen. Ed Emery (R-Lamar) would require the State Board of Education to develop a simplified annual school report card for each school attendance center, including charter schools. Each school, including each charter school, will be given a letter grade of A, B, C, D or F based on the percentage of points earned on six academic performance indicators. The bill requires report cards to be available on the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education’s (DESE) website and distributed by each school to the parents of each student.
- House Bill 448, sponsored by Rep. Jay Houghton (R-Martinsburg) prohibits superintendents from serving on any school board in the state.
- House Bill 469, sponsored by Rep. Elaine Gannon (R-DeSoto) allows high school students applying for an equivalency certificate to voluntarily submit his or her contact information for the purposes of evaluating college and career placement rates of certificate applicants. It requires DESE to subsidize the fee for the first exam, subject to appropriation.
- Senate Bill 63, sponsored by Sen Dan Hegeman (R-Cosby ) and Senate Bill 44, sponsored Sen. Gary Romine (R-Farmington) allows school districts to rely on technical coursework and skills assessments developed for industry-recognized certificates and credentials when establishing career and technical education offering.