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Bulletin: 2014 Session Wraps Up, How Education Was Affected

The 2014 General Assembly adjourned for the year when the gavel fell in both the House and Senate at 6:00 pm last Friday. It marked the end of a contentious legislative session, particularly on the topic of education. The final results of the 2014 session are a mixed bag for administrators and public schools as many bills impacting schools were passed. Some bills were positive; some were negative; while only time will tell the true impact of others.

This final bulletin of the 2014 Legislative Session is intended to update you on all the bills that did pass this year, detail some that did not, and give you a preview of what lies ahead in the coming months.

Legislature Approves Increases to K-12 Budget

For the first time in almost a decade, Missouri schools will see a significant increase in appropriations to the state’s funding formula. HB 2002 was approved two weeks ago and contained a $115 million increase to the foundation formula. Additionally, $15 million was added to the transportation categorical.

Although it could come near the end of the 2015 school year, districts could see even more revenue from the state if Missouri’s economy grows faster than estimated. This is because the Legislature approved a measure that would allow for an additional $163 million to be sent to Missouri schools through the funding formula if state revenues exceed 4.1% (the estimated growth the General Assembly used in crafting this year’s budget) during the 2014-15 fiscal year.

The reason for these levels of increases can be directly attributable to two things. First, the work administrators put in last summer and fall during the attempted veto override of HB 253. That public discussion put education funding front and center in public discourse. Second, Governor Nixon carried the momentum from our victory last fall into the session by making education funding the central theme of his budget recommendations in January. While the legislature did not meet the aggressive goals that the Governor laid out early in session, the increases put Missouri school funding on the right trajectory moving into the next few years.

Click here for a summary of all the changes to this year’s education budget.

Despite Defeat Last Fall, Legislature Passes Tax Cut

Following the failure of HB 253 last summer, many expected proponents of tax cuts to be back this year with a bill that was scaled back and free of many drafting errors contained in last year’s bill. SB 509 was passed in April and despite the veto of Governor Jay Nixon, the legislature was able to override that veto by obtaining the two-thirds majority needed to pass a law over objections from the executive branch.

Starting in 2017, SB 509 will lower the state’s income tax from 6% to 5.5% and create a 25% business income deduction for businesses known as “pass through businesses”. Each of these cuts are phased in over as little as a five-year period.

Each year that state revenues grow by $150 million, .1% will be cut on the state’s personal income tax and “pass through” businesses will see a 5% deduction on their income. When fully phased-in, the annual cost of SB 509 will be between $620 and $800 million.

This has the effect of prioritizing tax cuts and Medicaid spending ahead of education. The Missouri budget appropriates approximately $8 billion of general revenue each year. The current trend for annual state general revenue growth is between 3-4%. This equates to approximately $240-$320 million in growth each year. With SB 509, the first $120 million (the annual phased in amount of the tax cut) would first be dedicated to the tax cut. The next requirement to be funded is Medicaid because Missouri must match a minimum level in order to draw down a substantial amount of federal dollars. This entitlement program grows annually by approximately $100 million of general revenue. This means that under SB 509, the first $220 million of general revenue growth until 2022 would be spent before any additional funds could be considered to go to things like education. With the foundation formula underfunded by $556 million, Missouri schools, particularly those dependent on state funding can count on stagnant funding levels with the passage of SB 509.

SB 509 leaves the Missouri budget vulnerable to an economic downturn either at the national or state level. If between now and 2022 (when the $620 million cut is fully phased in) the economy were to experience the same sort of decline in a single year as it did in 2008 and 2009, Missouri would be faced with an additional annual loss of revenue of $124 million (the annual cost of the tax cut) as we attempted to recover. This is because the $150 million annual growth “trigger” would be enacted as the budget began to grow from the one-year decline.

While SAC opposed the passage of SB 509, if SB509 did not pass, there was a good chance that the legislature would have quickly passed a resolution to put a deeper tax cut proposal on the November ballot. If they had done so, the Governor would not have had any veto power over such a resolution. Here are some positives that have emerged from the tax cut discussion over the past two years:

· SB509 does not impact the state budget as much as HB253 would have. It is also better than many other tax cut bills that we have seen last year and also during this session.

· Education funding has been elevated to a major topic of discussion in the Capitol. The General Assembly has agreed on a $115 million increase in the formula funding (We are estimating a proration from 97% to 98%) and a $15 million increase in transportation funding (15% increase) for the 2014-15 year. It has been over 10 years since we have seen this level of increase.

· There is now more pressure on the legislature to prove that they can fund education after passage of SB509.

Common Core Preserved, Districts Given Year to Transition to New Assessments

Going into the 2014, the Common Core State Standards were under attack from conservatives and many grassroots organizations. Early in session, several bills were filed to completely ban the Common Core State Standards from Missouri classrooms. These proposals would have had the effect of throwing out nearly four years of work done by school districts to align to the Common Core. SAC opposed these proposals.

After several weeks of debate at the Capitol, including well over one hundred administrators attending a rally in support of the rigorous standards, the proposals were severely scaled back. In the end, both the House and Senate passed HB1490 with overwhelming majorities in each chamber.

The bill creates work groups of educators, administrators, principals, legislators and parents to monitor the implementation of the standards. These work groups will be in a position to make changes to the standards between 2015 and 2017. The work groups also have the potential to write new standards if they deem it appropriate. Any changes to the standards would not become effective until the 2016-17 school year.

A provision was also included in HB 1490 that ensures that at any time the state adopts a new assessment system, implements new standards, or makes changes to the Missouri School Improvement Program, a district’s accreditation cannot be lowered utilizing the first year of data under the changes. This ensures that with the changes that have already occurred with MSIP5 and the significant changes coming to Missouri’s assessment system during the 2014-15 school year, districts will be given an opportunity to adjust to the these changes with out the high stakes that are typically attached to the standards and assessments.

Several other provisions were added to HB 1490 at the urging of SAC and other stakeholder groups. The bill contains language ensuring that certified school personnel (teachers and administrators) must be employees of the local school district or charter school. Additionally, language was added ensuring that teacher and administrator evaluations remain confidential with local school districts and are prohibited from being shared with the state or federal government. This was an effort to ward off problems in other states in which Departments of Education had released these evaluations to the public after they had been shared with the state.

School Transfer Bill Becomes Vehicle for Sinquefield Agenda

Coming into the 2014 Legislative Session, the school transfer issue was frequently referred to as the most important issue that the Legislature had to deal with during their time in Jefferson City. The Senate Education Committee spent nearly four weeks debating the issue before finally passing a bill (SB 493) and moving it to the Senate floor. During that process, many Senators demanded various provisions be added to the bill that went beyond the school transfer issue, among them: school vouchers utilizing local tax dollars, mandatory student retention, and changes to the transportation hardship law. When the bill moved to the House of Representatives, many of these changes were stripped from the bill or severely scaled back. On the voucher issue, the House took a position that if local tax dollars were to be used to send students in unaccredited districts to private schools, then local voters must first approve the measure.

Once both chambers had stated their positions on the issue, SB 493 was sent to a conference committee so that the Senate and House could work out the differences. Ultimately, the version of SB 493 looked much more like the Senate’s version of the bill rather than the House’s version. This bill passed the Senate by a vote of 29-3 while passing the House by a much narrower margin of 89-66.

The highlights of the transfer system under SB 493…

Students who have attended an unaccredited school building in an unaccredited district for at least one full semester are only eligible to transfer to accredited school buildings within their school district. However, if space does not exist, then the options for students increase. Students would then be eligible to transfer to accredited school buildings only within fully accredited districts. Transportation would not be required to be provided.

Receiving school districts would have the ability to set class size parameters in order to determine the number of available slots within the district. Additionally, receiving districts may choose to charge 100% of their tuition to the sending district. However, if the district chooses to only charge the sending district 90%, then the state will appropriate money to make up the 10% difference. If the receiving district chooses to charge less than 70% of the sending district’s tuition, then the receiving district would receive credit towards being classified as “Accredited with Distinction” and would not be required to count transfer student’s test scores for up to five years.

If local voters approve the use of local tax dollars to be spent for vouchers to private schools, then students would have the option of transferring to a private school within their school district boundaries. If voters reject the private school voucher for three years, then the bill mandates that their local tax dollars be used for the voucher program.

Other provisions contained in SB 493…

School districts in St. Louis County that are classified as provisional or unaccredited are required to retain students in fifth and eighth grade if the student does not score proficient or advanced on state MAP tests.

In Jackson County, St. Louis County, St. Louis City, and all counties that are attached to St. Louis County, students that live more than seventeen miles away from their attendance center but within seven miles of an attendance center in another district shall be granted a transportation hardship. The tuition to be paid to the receiving district will be the lower of the two tuition rates.

For the next two years, school districts are given flexibility in fund placement requirements under the formula, including the 1% professional development requirement, if the formula is not fully funded. The same applies for the next two years if the transportation categorical is funded below 75% of allowable costs or if the Governor withholds funds form the foundation formula.

Starting with the 2015-16 school year, the requirement that school districts attend school for 174 days is repealed and replaced with a requirement to attend school for 1044 hours. Additionally, the requirement to make up school days is changed to hours and a school is only required to make 36 hours of missed time due to inclement weather.

Districts are prohibited from allowing summer school to be in session during the week of July 4th if the holiday falls on a business day. If July 4th falls on a weekend, then schools must structure their summer school calendar to ensure students receive four days off.

If a district chooses to adopt a calendar that would begin school prior to ten days prior to the first Monday in September, the district is required to have a separate special school board meeting to discuss the approval of the school calendar.

School boards of accredited districts or a collaborative of accredited districts are allowed to sponsor charter schools within an unaccredited district.

The State Board of Education is required to appoint assistance teams made up of education professionals to review a district that has an annual performance report score of less than 75%. Suggestions made by the review team are mandatory for districts that are classified as provisional or unaccredited.

The State Board of Education is required to adopt an accreditation system that allows for every attendance center in the state to receive a classification of Unaccredited, Provisionally Accredited, Accredited or Accredited with Distinction.

When a change in school district boundary lines occurs, the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education must adjust each affected district's local effort calculation based on the land area adjustments from the boundary line change using 2004 assessed valuation data.

In a transient student's first year of attendance in a district, the student's score on the statewide assessments will not be included when calculating the status or progress scores on the district's annual performance report scores. The scores will be counted for growth scores from the previous year's assessment for the purpose of the district's APR score and to serve as the baseline for growth in the next year's assessment. In the second year of attendance, a transient student's score on the statewide assessments will be weighted at fifty percent, with growth counting for fifty percent. In the third year of attendance and any subsequent year of attendance, a transient student's status, progress and growth score will be weighted at one hundred percent when calculating the district's performance for purposes of the district's APR score.

Click here for a complete summary of all the provisions of SB 493.

Early Childhood Funding Bill Passes, Includes Edits to Funding Formula

One bill that could have a long-term impact on school funding in the future was passed on the last day of session. The bill, HB 1689, states that at any time the foundation formula is fully funded, a district will be allowed to count students eligible for free and reduced lunch that are enrolled in their district’s early childhood education program in the district’s average daily attendance. The total number of early childhood students that a district may count cannot exceed 4% of the districts total free and reduced lunch population. Starting July 2015, regardless of whether or not the formula is fully funded, districts that are classified as unaccredited may begin counting their early childhood education populations in their average daily attendance, while provisionally accredited districts may begin counting their populations the following year.

Additional edits were also made to the foundation formula, including a clarification of “free and reduced lunch” status that was needed to respond to changes made by the United States Department of Agriculture.

Currently, any district that has met all of the performance standards and indicators in the Missouri School Improvement Program is considered a performance district for purposes of calculating state aid. Beginning in fiscal year 2019, performance districts must not exceed 25% of all school districts.

Current law allows the state adequacy target to be adjusted to accommodate available appropriations beginning on July 1, 2012, which was the completion date of the phase-in of the formula. This adjustment method is modified so that it is used to modify state aid payments to formula districts when the formula appropriation is
not fully funded. Language that governed the adjustment of the state adequacy target during the phase-in of the formula is repealed. The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education will adjust the state adequacy target to accommodate the appropriation level if the amount of funding appropriated for the foundation formula is not sufficient to fully fund all school districts. Payments to hold-harmless districts must not be modified.

Various Provisions Included in Bill to Allow
District to Share Superintendents

SB 701, sponsored by Sen. Brad Lager, was initially filed in response to a denial by DESE to a request of two school districts in northwest Missouri to share a superintendent. As with many simple bills like this, SB 701 quickly became a vehicle for which legislators could attach other provisions of law.

Here are the other provisions that were added to SB 701…

Each school district may include the data from charter schools located within the district in its school accountability report card. The school board of the district and the charter school must reach a mutual agreement for the inclusion of the data. The State Board of Education must approve the agreement. Additionally, the language states that charter schools are not required to be part of the local education agency of the school district and may maintain a separate LEA status. This last piece could have wide ranging ramifications for school districts in that a district could convert underperforming buildings within their district to a charter school and avoid having those schools’ scores count in their district’s annual performance report.

DESE is prohibited from penalizing school districts for students who complete approved career and technical education programs and fail to be placed in occupations directly relating to their training within six months of graduation. This provision will mean quite a bit of relief to school districts as they track students after they graduate from high school in order to meet the requirements of DESE’s scoring guide.

Also, DESE must also revise its scoring guide to provide additional points to districts that partner with area career centers, comprehensive high schools, industry, and business to develop and implement a pathway for students to enroll in a program of career and technical education in high school, participate in an internship or apprenticeship in their senior year, and obtain the appropriate industry certification.

DESE must also permit student scores on a nationally recognized exam that demonstrates achievement of workplace employability skills to count toward credit for college and career readiness standards on the Missouri School Improvement Program. DESE has already responded to this provision by allowing for ACT Work Keys to be included in the approved exams that a district may use to show college and career readiness measures under MSIP.

The bill also created a program within the Department of Agriculture called the Missouri Farm to School Taskforce that will act as an information hub between Missouri farmers and school districts that wish to purchase their produce and other agricultural products from Missouri farmers.

Other Bills Relating to Education to Pass in 2014

SB 719 – School Purchases and Leases

Current law provides that any school board member, officer, or employee of a seven-director school district that is located in a first class county who sells or provides certain commodities to the district is guilty of a class A misdemeanor and must forfeit his or her position with the district. This act removes this prohibition and aligns seven-director districts located in a first class county with the current law regarding seven-director districts located in second, third, and fourth class counties so that any school board member, officer, or employee may sell or provide certain commodities to the district provided he or she complies with certain ethical provisions.

SB 719 prohibits any elected official, appointed official, or employee of any school district from performing a service, or selling, renting, or leasing any property to the school district for more than five hundred dollars per transaction or for five thousand dollars of value annually to him or her, to his or her spouse, or to a dependent child in his or her custody, or to any business with which he or she is associated, unless the transaction is made after public notice, competitive bidding, and the lowest bid or offer is accepted.

SB 719 modifies a prohibition on school boards leasing or renting buildings while a school building is unoccupied so that a school board may lease a building as provided in section 177.088 (the section governing leasing school property) when a school building is unoccupied.

Currently, the board of any educational institution may only enter into an agreement with a not-for-profit corporation when making certain transactions or modifications involving sites, buildings, facilities, furnishings, and equipment. SB 719 removes this limitation.

HB 1189 - High School Graduation Requirements

HB 1189 requires the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education to develop, by July 1, 2015, a high school graduation policy that allows a student to fulfill one unit of academic credit with an agriculture or career and technical education course approved by the student's school district for up to four credits, one each in communications arts, mathematics, science, and social studies. The substitution may not be made for a course that requires an end-of-course statewide assessment. The policy must be in addition to the optional waiver of one unit of academic credit for a three-unit career and technical program of studies.

SB 782 - Alternative Teacher Certification 

SB 782 allows an individual with certification from the American Board for Certification of Teacher Excellence (ABCTE) to obtain teacher certification in the area of elementary education. An applicant for teacher certification through ABCTE in the area of elementary education must complete ninety contact hours, of which at least thirty must be in an elementary classroom. Prior to this bills passage, ABCTE certification was limited to high school grades.

HB 1217 – Pensions for Felons

Any participant of a public retirement plan who is found guilty of a felony offense which is committed in direct connection with or directly related to the participant's duties as an employee shall not be eligible to receive any retirement benefits from the public pension plan, except a participant may still request from the public retirement system a refund of the participant's plan contributions, including interest credited to the participant's account.

SB 656 – School Protection Officers

SB 656 allows a school district to designate one or more schoolteachers or administrators as a school protection officer. School protection officers are authorized to carry a concealed firearm or self-defense spray device.
The bill requires a school board that is seeking to designate a school protection officer to hold a public hearing on the matter. The officer must keep the firearm or device under his or her personal control at all times while on school property. Violation of this provision is a Class B misdemeanor and may result in the immediate removal of the officer from the classroom and the commencement of employment termination proceedings.
The school district must notify the director of the Department of Public Safety of the designation of any school protection officer. The department must make a list of all school protection officers available to all law enforcement agencies.

SB 656 requires the Peace Officer Standards and Training Commission to establish standards and curriculum for training of school protection officers. The director of the Department of Public Safety must develop, and make available to all school districts, a list of approved school protection officer training instructors, centers, and programs.

SB 523 - RFID Chips

SB 523 prohibits school districts from requiring a student to use an identification device that uses radio frequency identification technology to identify the student, transmit information regarding the student, or monitor or track the location of the student.

HB 1303 – Student Religious Liberties

This bill establishes the Missouri Student Religious Liberties Act, which prohibits a school district from discriminating against a student or parent on the basis of religious viewpoint or expression. Religious viewpoints must be treated like secular viewpoints on an otherwise permissible subject. Students may express their religious beliefs in homework, artwork, and other written and oral assignments, to be judged on ordinary academic standards. Students must be allowed to pray or engage in religious activities before, during, and after school to the same extent they engage in nonreligious activities and must be given the same access to facilities as other non-curricular groups, including the ability to advertise or announce meetings. Students must be permitted to wear and display religious messages and symbols to the same extent other messages and symbols are permitted.

Each school district must adopt a policy that includes the establishment of a limited public forum for student speakers at all school events at which a student is to speak in public. The forum must not discriminate against a student's voluntary expression of a religious viewpoint, must provide a method for the neutral selection of student speakers, ensure the student does not engage in vulgar or indecent speech, and state that a student speech does not reflect the district's endorsement or sponsorship. The sponsorship disclaimer must be provided at all graduation ceremonies and in any situation where a need exists to dispel confusion over sponsorship of speech. The law must not be construed to allow the state or a school district to require participation in prayer or to violate any person's constitutional rights, nor to limit the power of any public school to maintain order, protect student safety, or adopt and enforce policies on student speech that do not violate the rights of students under the law.