The online hub of the Missouri School Administrators Coalition.

Bulletin #6 - Governor Presents Tax Cut Deal

Last week was highlighted by movement on a possible deal between Senate Republicans and Governor Jay Nixon on tax cuts. Thursday afternoon saw Governor Nixon publicly state the criteria he expected to see in any tax bill before he would consider signing the bill into law. Nixon said that he needed to see four triggers met in any proposed legislation if he were to consider signing the bill. They include...

  1. Tax cuts would not go into effect until the state's foundation formula were fully funded. 
  2. Tax cuts would not go into effect until low income housing and historic preservation tax credits were cut. 
  3. The tax cut would need to be specifically for individuals and not targeted to business. 

Senator Will Kraus (R - Lee's Summit) quickly responded to the Governor's proposal by stating that he would offer an amendment to his SB 509 that would reflect the Governor's wishes. In addition to meeting the above criteria, the tax proposal being considered by the Senate this week would cut the personal income tax from 6% to 5.5% over a period of two years. In addition to the criteria listed above, the 1/4% cut would not be triggered in any year when state revenues do not grow by $200 million. The total cost of this cut would be $400 million. 

Leaders in the House of Representatives were eager to throw water on the potential deal between the Governor and the Senate. Majority Floor Leader quickly put out a statement saying that the House did not feel that the deal represented real tax reform. The House is set to take up multiple bills this week as they begin developing their own tax proposal. While the possibility of a deal between the Senate and the Governor that goes a long way to protecting education funding, there is still a long way to go in the process before anything ultimately becomes law. 

Budget Chair Files Supplemental Budget Bill Without Funding for Education

Last week, Rep. Rick Stream (R - Kirkwood) filed HB 2014 which is the supplemental budget for the state of Missouri. This bill is used to make up shortfalls or spend overages in the middle of the current budget year. One of the most important things that educators were looking for in this budget bill was approximately $35 million from general revenue that was intended to make up shortfalls in gaming revenues.

Last year, Gov. Nixon presented a budget that offered a total of $66 million more for the state foundation formula. However, this increase was completely based on casinos bringing in the entire $66 million. As we have seen since the $500 loss limit was removed by a vote of the people a few years ago, gaming revenues for the state have not increased. The current year is no different, where funds are set to come up approximately $35 million short. This created the need for the replacement of these funds from general revenue dollars, which the Governor requested when he presented his budget to the General Assembly in late January. However, when HB 2014 was introduced last week, Rep. Stream failed to include this funding. 

Administrators need to be aware of the possibility that the funding that may have been calculated and used in the current year's budget, may not actually be there as schools close out the year.

One other highlight of the bill is that it currently contains $5 million for the Normandy school district in order to allow that district to finish the current school year and avoid being dissolved an assigned to other districts in the area. There is language included with this money that would require the money to only go to a state appointed board. Meaning that DESE and the State Board of Education would be forced to appoint a board to the district within the next two months. Normandy has indicated that they would likely be insolvent by the end of March.

House Education Committee Hears Several Bills

The House Committee on Elementary and Secondary Education heard the following bills last week. No bills have yet to be passed out of the committee.

 HB 1111 Sponsor: Rowland

School districts had been excused from spending funds for professional development and fund placement requirements in fiscal years 2011, 2012, and 2013. This bill extends the excusal to years in which the basic funding formula apportionment is underfunded or the transportation categorical funding is less than a 75% reimbursement rate or the year after any withholdings for the basic formula apportionment.

HB 1128 Sponsor: Lant

This bill allows school district employees and their spouses to enter into contracts with their school district for goods or services as long as the contract conforms to the requirements for political subdivision contracting and the competitive bidding requirements or exemptions under the state purchasing law.

HB 1109 Sponsor: Rowland

This bill prohibits a school board member who has been charged with a specified list of crimes against children from attending board meetings or voting on issues before the board until the charges have been adjudicated.

HB 1157 Sponsor: Lair

Among other things, this bill, requires the department to develop policies to comply with state and federal privacy laws and policies, restricting access to personally identifiable data to specified persons and agencies and developing procedures for data requests and prohibits the transfer of personally identifiable data unless provided by law and policy.

HB 1158 Sponsor: Lair

This bill prohibits the State Board of Education and the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education from mandating the curriculum, textbooks, and other instructional materials to be used in public schools, except in schools and instructional programs administered by them or in districts classified as unaccredited.

HB 1189 Sponsor: Wood

This bill 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 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.

HB 1472 Sponsor: Brattin

This bill requires any school district or charter school that provides instruction relating to the theory of evolution by natural selection to have a policy on parental notification and a mechanism for a parent to choose to remove his or her child from any part of the district's or school's instruction on evolution. The policy must require the school district or charter school to notify the parent or legal guardian of each student enrolled in the district of the basic content of the instruction and the parent's right to remove the student from any part of the instruction. All materials used in the instruction must be made available for public inspection under the Open Meetings and Records Law, commonly known
as the Sunshine Law, prior to the use of the materials in actual instruction.

HB 1425 Sponsor: Montecillo

This bill requires the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education to develop a process and scoring guide that awards additional performance points on the School Improvement Program to a school district that provides full-day kindergarten to students who qualify for free or reduced-price lunch, students under an individualized education program, and students who are identified as at-risk as specified in the bill.

HB 1294 Sponsor: McNeil

This bill allows a district that is provisionally accredited or unaccredited and that provides full-day kindergarten is allowed to count prekindergarten pupils between the ages of three and five in the district's calculation of average daily attendance for state school aid. The bill also a grant program for unaccredited and provisionally accredited districts to support extended instructional time.

The bill also addresses the student transfer issue by allowing a student in a school that scores unaccredited in the previous year may transfer to another accredited school in his or her district if he or she has attended school in the district for one year. A student enrolled in a school that has scored in the unaccredited range for two years may transfer to another district in the same or adjacent county if he or she meets the residency conditions and the receiving school is accredited and its approved class size has not been reached. Tuition would be no more than 80% of the per-pupil revenue received from state and local sources. Transportation must be provided to one receiving school or to a second school if the first cannot accommodate the number wishing to attend.

Senate Education Committee Continues Work on Transfers

Sen. David Pearce's (R - Warrensburg) education committee heard yet another bill relating to transfers and assisting unaccredited school districts. The committee heard SB 616 sponsored by Sen. Nasheed (D - St. Louis) that is called the "Every Child Can Learn Act".

The bill does several things. The number one thing is SB 616 would return Missouri to the same failed policies of No Child Left Behind in a sense that when an individual school is classified as unaccredited, the school board of the district in which it is located must adopt and implement a school turnaround option for that school. The school board may use a restart model, a transformation model, or a turnaround model. All of these options make replacing the principal the first action a school board must take. 

The bill also calls for the state to accredit schools based on building rather than by district. The bill goes further to state that any student attending an unaccredited building would have the opportunity to transfer, meaning that the transfer issue which has been limited to the Normandy and Riverview Gardens School Districts would be expanded statewide for any district with a struggling school building. 

The bill also requires that the state develop a school grade card so that every school would receive an individual letter grade. No more than ten percent of public schools must be assigned a grade of A; approximately twenty-eight percent of public schools are assigned a grade of B; approximately thirty-one percent of public schools are assigned a grade of C; approximately twenty-eight percent of public schools are assigned a grade of D; and at least five percent of public schools are assigned a grade of F. 

SB 616 represents the final bill that has been filed in the Senate. The committee will now begin working on developing a bill in which they feel is appropriate to move forward. No bills yet have been filed or heard that offer a sustainable transfer plan that does not lead to the bankruptcy of a district once it is declared to be unaccredited.