The online hub of the Missouri School Administrators Coalition.

Bulletin #11: Legislature Returns From Break, Attack on Common Core First Thing Up

After a week long break, the Missouri General Assembly returns to Jefferson City today with seven weeks until the state budget is required to be passed and eight weeks until the Constitution requires the 2014 session end. Many issues are expected to be debated in the coming weeks, among them, student transfers, tax cuts, education funding, Common Core, etc. 

First up this week is the topic of Common Core. The Senate Education committee will hear two bills that would in effect do away with Missouri Learning Standards. SB 514 is sponsored by Senator John Lamping (R - Ladue) and SB 798 sponsored by Senator Ed Emery (R - Lamar) will both be heard on Wednesday afternoon at 3 p.m.

Because they are getting a lot of pressure from right-wing activists around the state, your legislators need to know that these standards are supported by yourself, your district, and your educators. They also should be reminded that these standards have nothing to do with the curriculum that your school district CHOOSES to adopt. The Missouri Learning Standards are aligned to the Common Core but were developed right here in Missouri by Missouri educators in an open and transparent manner.

There have been some concerns from educators and the member organizations of SAC regarding the way that Missouri will begin assessing students in the coming years. Because of this concern, many changes have already been made to Missouri's assessment system to address our concerns. These changes are reflected in the new testing plan that was announced in December. The plan greatly reduces the impact of testing on students and gives more time for teachers to focus on instruction. It also shifts testing away from the state level down to the local level by providing school districts with a state of the art tool to be used for formative assessments that allow teachers to individualize instruction to their classrooms.

Looking ahead, as field testing of the Smarter Balanced assessments begins this week, the process of working out some of the remaining issues that exist with the assessment system. We will be looking for many things as these tests are given like how well the technology works, whether or not schools have sufficient broadband access, and satisfactory accommodations for students with special needs.

Common Core and the Missouri Learning Standards represent a major shift from the way things have been done in the past. The possibilities of these initiative are endless and will ultimately have a positive impact on students. With an ever increasing population of students that are mobile, these standards allow for schools and students to smoothly transition from one school or district to another. Schools would be better equipped and assured of where a student is at in their educational career and thus have more time to focus on meeting the needs of that student with out wasting as much time trying to figure out where to place new students.

Because nearly every state in the country has adopted Common Core aligned standards, Missouri educators will once and for all have an accurate representation of how we compare to the rest of the country. Traditionally, Missouri has been penalized in our national comparisons because of our already rigorous standards while other states may have appeared to be performing better on their standards, yet their standards were well below Missouri's in rigor.

The threat to the efforts to abandon the four years of work that Missouri educators and schools districts have dedicated to this initiative is very real. The time to contact your legislators is NOW!

Every administrator, principal and superintendent should contact their State Senators and Representatives to tell them that you support the high standards that the Missouri Learning Standards represent. Urge your legislators to oppose any effort by the state to abandon the four years of time, money, and effort your district and your teachers have spent moving towards the high standards that the Common Core represent. 

HOUSE TO TAKE UP STATE BUDGET THIS WEEK

It is expected that the House of Representatives will take up the state budget for fiscal year 2015 this week, maybe as soon as tomorrow. If you remember, as it stands now the budget currently contains...

  • $278 million in formula funding. (Note: $122 million is guaranteed general revenue, up to $156 million would be appropriated if state revenues grow more than 4.2%)
  • $25 million for transportation over the current year's appropriated amount
  • $26 million for the new testing plan being implemented by DESE. This includes funding to pay for one administration of the ACT for every eleventh grader in the state
  • $3.5 million for reading instruction in provisionally and unaccredited school districts

Some clarity needs to be given in regards to how and when the additional $156 million to the state foundation formula would be sent to schools, but SAC supports this budget proposal. 

AGRICULTURAL LAND ASSESSMENTS TO GO UP IN 2015 and 2016

For the first time since 1997, the assessment of agricultural land will increase. This year, the Missouri General Assembly failed to pass a concurrent resolution that would have overturned the State Tax Commission's recommendation that agricultural land increase by 5% in 2015 and 2016. Every two years, the State Tax Commission makes a recommendation on the value of all types of land. If the legislature disagrees with the Commission's calculation, they must pass a resolution within sixty days to disapprove the recommendation. 

Typically, a resolution of this nature has flown through the legislature. SAC opposed the resolution in committee this year. Ultimately, because the recommended increase to land assessment was so small and the value of farm land has grown so much over the past several years, the General Assembly chose not to move the resolution.

 School districts affected by this increase should see the benefit of this increase in the 2015 fiscal year.