The online hub of the Missouri School Administrators Coalition.

Bulletin #2: DESE Unveils Testing Plan, Tax Cuts Considered in Senate

Last week, the House Budget Committee heard testimony from the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education regarding the updated testing plan that was developed by the Department and supported by several education groups.

As you may be aware, Missouri’s contract for the MAP test is set to expire at the end of this year, forcing the state to enter into a new contract for the 2014-15 school year. The contract will include the development of a new test that is consistent with the Missouri Learning Standards, the administration and grading of the test, and the purchase of a formative assessment system that will allow teachers to individualize instruction to their students.

Because our MAP tests have been more rigorous than nearly every other state in the country, the cost of our system has been artificially low, totally $12 million. With the new, more rigorous Missouri Learning Standards, a new assessment system must be developed.

Originally, DESE had requested $30 million in order to develop the new MAP test. As a part of this request, the number and amount time spent testing students was set to drastically increase, particularly for high school students as there was a stark increase in the number of end-of-course exams and new tests that would have been required at the end of a student’s high school career. The move to increase testing was opposed by many administrators, principals, teachers and education organizations.

As a result, many organization spent several weeks developing a new testing model and eventually worked with the department to revise DESE’s original testing plan.

A comparison between the original proposal and the new proposal can be viewed here.

A video, prepared by the Missouri Association of School Administrators, summarizing the changes can be viewed here.

If you have questions, DESE has prepared and will continue to update a “Frequently Asked Questions” document that you can view here.

SAC supports the new testing plan. Administrators are encouraged to contact their legislators and urge them to support the new testing model.

A few highlights of this plan that legislators need to hear about are as followed…

  • The revised plan reduces the required appropriation from the state by 11.5% ($3.5 million).
  • The revised plan provides one administration of the ACT for every student in the state of Missouri.
  • The revised plan reduces the amount of time spent testing students by 46.6% from the original testing plan and 19.1% under the current MAP test.
  • The new system provides valid and reliable scores within ten business days.
  • The new system that provides unlimited access to resources like formative assessments, interim assessments, and a digital library for every school in the state. These resources can be utilized by teachers to individualize instruction and by principals and other evaluators to provide effect teacher evaluations.
  • The plan also maintains federal testing requirements, which means Missouri is not in danger of losing nearly $600 million in federal funding.

Senate Hears Bills to Cut Taxes, Cost More Than HB 253

As expected, bills that cut taxes appear to be on the fast track, particularly in the Missouri Senate. Last week, the Senate Ways and Means Committee heard three bills, SB 496 and SB 497 both sponsored by Sen. Eric Schmitt (R – Glendale) and SB 509 (R – Lee’s Summit), which cut taxes in various ways. SB 496 phases in a 50% deduction on business income for all pass-through businesses like LLC’s. SB 497 reduces the personal income tax to 5.5%. SB 509 merges the two cuts together while reducing taxes in other areas as well.

All of these bills in whole or in part mirror HB 253 from last session, except that each of these bills has removed provisions that collected sales tax on online purchases that were included in HB 253. Because of this, the fiscal impact for these bills is significantly greater than last year’s bill. For instance, SB 509 has a fiscal note of nearly $1.8 billion.

SAC is opposed to these bills because of their impact on state revenues. It is expected that these bills are likely to move quickly this year. However, the political landscape surrounding the issue has not changed and it is not expected that any bill with fiscal notes as high as these bills will ultimately become law. SAC will continue to oppose these bills and work to ensure that if a tax cut is passed that it will not have an impact on the state’s ability to fund vital services, especially public education.

Previewing the Week Ahead: Governor to Deliver State of 

State, Transfer Bills Up in Senate Committee

This week, despite being a shortened week thanks to Monday’s holiday is expected to be quite busy. Tuesday night Governor Nixon will make deliver his State of the State address to a joint session of the Missouri General Assembly. He will also lay out his priorities for the coming year, including a preview of his fiscal year 2015 budget request. Governor Nixon has committed to fully funding the state’s foundation formula by the end of his term. Over the next three years, the state would have to make up the nearly $600 million shortfall that currently exists.

The governor will begin his speech at 7pm tonight. If you would like to watch the speech you can do so at the following link.

Also this week, the Missouri Senate will begin hearing bills regarding the student transfer law. First up, the Senate Education Committee will be hearing five identical bills filed by suburban St. Louis County Senators that establish class-size parameters for districts that receive transfer students. Under these bills, full tuition will still be charged to districts that are classified as unaccredited meaning that those districts would be bankrupt in a matter of just a few months, depending on how much money the district has in reserve.

SAC is opposed to these bills. Included in all of these bills (SB 495, SB 485, SB 534, SB 545, SB 595) is a provision that goes beyond the student transfer law currently affecting the St. Louis region. The provision would require student hardship transfers for any student that resides more than seventeen miles away from his or her school and seven miles closer to a school in another district. This open enrollment provision of the bill will lead to chaos among several districts in the state of Missouri. This provision was passed two years ago and vetoed by the Governor.