The online hub of the Missouri School Administrators Coalition.

Bulletin #7: Private School Vouchers Added to Transfer Bill, Gaming Money Left Out of Budget

The Senate Education Committee has completed its' work on the school transfer issue and has move a bill forward for the entire Senate to consider, possibly as soon as this week. The passage of Senate Committee Substitute for SB 493 marks the end of four consecutive weeks of hearing multiple proposals from various Senators. The bill will be carried by Senator David Pearce when it comes up for debate in front of the entire Senate. You can read a summary of the bill here. 

Significant issues exist with the bill as currently drafted. First, the bill expands transfers beyond just unaccredited school districts and allows students to transfer if the school building that the student attends is classified as unaccredited. Students would then be allowed to transfer to private, non-sectarian schools or other buildings within their school district if space existed, but if space did not exist, the students would be able to attend adjoining districts.In an effort to avoid constitutional issues, payment to private schools would only come out of a district's local revenues rather than funding received from the state the amount could not exceed the amount of local aid a district spends per pupil. 

A district that receives students would receive the full cost of tuition but the cost would be split between the district with an unaccredited school and the state of Missouri. The sending district would only be responsible for paying the amount per pupil it currently spends and the state would appropriate money every year to make up the different. Transportation would not be required to be provided by the district with an unaccredited school building.

SB 493 also contains language that allows for students that live more than seventeen miles from their school but seven miles closer to a school which the student would attend in another district would be allowed to transfer at the cost to the district where the student resides. This open enrollment language was passed two years ago but vetoed by the Governor because of its long reaching impact on districts across the state. 

Troublesome language regarding student promotion was also included in SB 493. Except for the St. Louis School District and Kansas City School District, all unaccredited districts, provisionally accredited districts, districts with a three year average annual performance report score consistent with unaccredited or provisional accreditation are prohibited from promoting any student from the fifth grade to the sixth grade or from the eighth grade to the ninth grade who has not scored at the proficient level or above on the statewide assessments in the areas of English language arts and mathematics.

In addition to transfers, the bill also brings back some other troublesome ideas that were mandated under No Child Left Behind but had been eliminated due to Missouri's waiver. This includes free tutoring services to be paid for by the state of Missouri for underperforming students that attend provisionally accredited or unaccredited districts. Also included in SB 493 is the parental notification requirements whenever a school building is classified as provisionally or un-accredited. 

In its current form, SB 493 creates a system that promotes the concept of "hiding" students that need the most support for educational success. The bill allows for-profit private schools to pop up in districts across the state so that they can recruit students and be paid by local taxpayers. These schools would take students off the books of their local school district but would put them into a school that has no state accountability requirements to ensure that students are receiving a quality education. 

SB 493 will also have devastating effects on districts in the Kansas City and St. Louis areas that have a significant number of private schools already in existence. The bill attempts to ensure that students would not be able to transfer to these private schools or other school districts if the student had not previously attended the public school. The constitutionality of this provision is questionable and will lead to students already attending private schools to be eligible to get their education subsidize by the local school district. Also, just as we have seen in Normandy and Riverview Gardens, students would be able to move into the district and get their education subsidized by local tax payers. This provision could have a devastating financial impact on any district that contains unaccredited school buildings. 

The bill also attempts to prevent districts that have portions of another district attached to it from receiving a windfall through the state foundation formula. The bill calls for a recalculation of local effort under the formula for any new portion of land under the existing district's tax rate instead of allowing the district to maintain its 2004 local effort calculation. However, in its attempt to address that issue, SB 493 sets up a situation where districts that receive new territory would be ensured to receive a financial penalty compared to the existing cost of educating students in the territory that is attached. 

Significant changes are expected to this bill as it moves to the Senate floor this week. While other provisions of the Senate Committee Substitute for SB 493 are looked at as positive changes, as drafted right now, SAC is opposed to this bill for the numerous reasons listed above. 

House Committee Sends 2014 Supplemental Budget Forward Without Money for Education

Last year, the Missouri General Assembly passed a budget that contained an estimated increase of $66 million for public schools in the foundation formula. This increase was done through an assumed $66 million in revenues from riverboat gambling to fund the increase. Additionally, the 2014 budget contained an estimate $33 million in surpluses from gaming in 2013. 

However, currently gaming revenues have come in an estimated $41 million short of the expected $66 million increase and the Governor has asked for the legislature to make up the shortfall with surpluses in general revenue that Speaker of the House Tim Jones (R - Eureka) and House Budget Chairman Rick Stream (R - Kirkwood), the sponsor of the supplemental budget bill (HB 2014) estimated at $450 million last year during the debate around HB 253. 

Ultimately, if the shortfall is not filled in by budget makers, all school districts in the state are set to receive 1.5% less in state funding than was expected at the time budgets were adopted. Governor Jay Nixon sent this letter to House members last week urging them to fill in the shortfall for the current year's budget. 

It is likely that this bill will be debated on the floor of the Missouri House this week. Administrators should contact your state representative(s) and urge them to meet the commitment that was made with last year's budget. 

House Sends Tax Bills to Senate

In a strictly party line vote, the Missouri House gave approval to two bills that would re-write Missouri's tax code and give significant breaks to business at the expense of state services like public education. The bills, HB 1253 and HB 1295, are similar in many ways to last year's HB 253 that was vetoes by the Governor and failed to receive enough votes when a vote was taken in September to override the veto. 

HB 1295 is nearly identical to HB 253 in the ways that taxes are cut but failed to include the offset that was included in last year's bill which implemented a sales tax for online purchases, thus making the bill more expensive, the estimates put the cost of HB 1295 between $1.5-$1.8 billion once the cuts are fully phased in. HB 1253 is more limited in that it creates a 50% deduction for all business income for sole proprietorships and LLC's. The cost of this could rise to as much as $350 million once the deduction is fully phased in and could rise as more businesses reorganize in order to take advantage of this benefit. 

SAC is opposed to both of these bills. We have prepared memos for both of these bill which can be found at the following links. 

HB 1295 Memo

HB 1253 Memo

Both of these bills passed the House, but failed to meet the 110 vote threshold that would be needed to override the Governor's veto. Governor Nixon has indicated that he would veto any bill that comes to his desk that endangers Missouri from meeting its' commitment to fund the state's foundation formula. The bill now moves to the Senate where leaders have been in discussions with the Governor's office on a potential deal that would ensure that tax cuts would not go into effect until the foundation formula was fully funded and tax credit programs were reigned in significantly. 

The debate around the issue of tax cuts is set to go all session long so it is important to watch these updates and stay up to date on the latest developments. 

Multiple Bills Heard in Various Committees Last Week

In addition to the actions listed above, there were a number of highly important bills heard in multiple committees last week as well. 

HB 1490 Sponsor: Bahr

Prohibits the State Board of Education and the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education from adopting or implementing the Common Core State Standards developed by the Common Core Standards Initiative. Any actions taken to adopt or implement the Common Core State Standards as of August 28, 2014, would be voided. The act also requires the Missouri General Assembly to approve any future standards. 

SAC is opposed to HB 1490. 

HCR 16 Sponsor: Guernsey

HCR 16 would repeal the recommended 5% increase for agricultural and horticultural property that was approve earlier this year by the Missouri State Tax Commission. The increase will go into effect unless the General Assembly passes a resolution rejecting the recommendation. 

SAC opposes HCR 16 and submitted this testimony to the House Agribusiness Committee when it was heard last week.  

HCR 16 Memo

HB 1487 & HB 1705 Sponsors: Bahr & Curtis

Beginning with the 2015-16 academic year, a person who enrolls in a public higher education institution after graduating from a Missouri public high school may apply for reimbursement of tuition for remedial courses, as defined in the bill. The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education must establish a procedure by
which a student may apply for reimbursement twice a year. Reimbursement will be proportional to the graduating high school's three-year average percentage of students enrolled in remedial courses.

SAC opposes HB 1487 & 1705 and submitted the following testimony to the House Higher Education Committee last week. 

HB1487 & 1705 Memo

HB 1347 Sponsor: Haahr

This bill states that any public school that participates in the Missouri State High School Activities Association (MSHSAA) must provide home school students, who reside in their attendance area, with the opportunity to participate in these activities in the same manner that the opportunity is provided to the students enrolled in the school. Home school students who participate or seek to participate are subject to the same registration, age limit, fees, insurance, transportation, physical condition, qualifications, responsibilities, event schedules, standards of behavior, and performance requirements as enrolled students. The person who provides home school instruction to the student must certify that the student is receiving a passing grade in each course and is maintaining satisfactory advancement.

SAC opposes HB 1347.

SB 701 Sponsor: Lager

The bill allows two or more school districts to share a superintendent who possesses a valid Missouri superintendent's license.

SAC testified in favor of this bill. 

HB 1536 Sponsor: Spencer

This bill repeals the provision that prohibits the establishment of a test as a condition for high school graduation or a
state-approved high school diploma and establishes the Student Accountability Act which, beginning with school year 2017-18, requires that:

  • A student must score proficient or higher on at least one assessment after eighth grade in each state administered end-of-course exam in order to receive a high school diploma. 
  • A student receiving special education services whose education plan specifies that the student scores at least one standard deviation below average on a generally accepted intelligence test may be awarded a diploma of local achievement.
  • Every public higher education institution must recognize the academic diploma as sufficient for placement in the first college-level course for mathematics and English composition.

SAC opposed HB 1536 because it creates "high stakes testing" for students while also creating a differentiated diploma for special needs students. The Missouri Council of Special Education prepared and offered the following testimony to the committee in relation to HB 1536. 

HB 1536 Memo (MO-CASE)

HB 1614 Sponsor: Burlison

This bill adds dyslexia to the list of special needs covered by Bryce's Law, which is a grant program through the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education that provides assistance for students with specific special needs to obtain services outside of their local school district. There is currently no state funding into this program.

There is significant concern with including dyslexia in this law because it is not a recognized disability under IDEA, nor is it recognized by mental health professionals that currently issue diagnoses for the purposes of IEP's.

HB 1170 Sponsor: Butler

This bill establishes the Missouri Parent/Teacher Involvement Act to provide grants to schools to build trusting relationships between families and school staff. The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education must coordinate and administer the program, and priority is given to school districts scoring in the lowest 20% on their assessment program scores. Schools serving grades K-12 must operate programs that require teachers to conduct regular visits to their students' homes.