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Bulletin # 10: Legislature Concludes First Half of Session, Eight Weeks of Work Remain

Yesterday, the Missouri General Assembly adjourned for their annual, mid-session break. Legislators will return to Jefferson City on Monday, March 24th, when they do, eight weeks of work remains until Legislative session ends.

Three big issues are expected to take up a majority of the Legislature's time in the final weeks. 

First, the state's budget has yet to leave the House of Representatives and must make its way through the Senate before both chambers sit down and work through their differences. The budget was passed out of committee this week and is likely to be one of the first things House members will vote on when they return from their weeklong break on the 24th of March. 

As of right now, Missouri schools are in an unfamiliar situation compared to recent years. It appears that the Missouri House is working towards helping Gov. Jay Nixon achieve his goal of fully funding the state's foundation formula within the next two or three years, while also providing funding for several other key areas like transportation, new tests, and assistance for struggling school districts. As of right now, the current version of the budget that passed out of the House Budget Committee this week 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

The other major issue administrators should be engaged on is the school transfer issue, most notably SB493. This bill will likely be heard in the House Elementary and Secondary Education Committee soon after legislators return from their break. SAC is opposed to SB 493 for multiple reasons. First, the bill promotes a system that does nothing but hide students from difficult backgrounds in unaccountable private schools or more affluent school districts. SB 493 promotes "school choice" instead of a structure that helps struggling schools and districts increase student performance. SAC is urging legislators to look at ideas like HB 2037, sponsored by Rep. Janie Lauer (R - Blue Springs) as an alternative to SB 493 and the other bills that promote Rex Sinquefield's school choice agenda over what will help students and save struggling communities.

For more information, we have prepared a memo detailing our reasons for opposition to SB 493.

Finally, the legislature is likely to continue discussions surrounding tax cuts. After the defeat of HB 253 last summer, proponents of the idea continue to try and salvage some sort of tax relief package. Thus far those proposals have stalled.

HB 1253 & 1297 and HB 1295, sponsored by Rep. TJ Berry (R-Kearney) have passed the Missouri House and are pending in the Senate, and would together funnel nearly a billion dollars away from public education. SB666, sponsored by Sen. Eric Schmitt (R-Kirkwood) which received first-round approval in the Senate last week, would cost nearly $400 million in the current fiscal year by giving an immediate tax rebate of .75% of their property value to every residential property owner in the state. This would create a situation where residents with more expensive homes would see the largest tax break.

It has become clear that any bill that significantly cuts taxes while the state's commitment to public education is unmet, would be met with a veto by Governor Nixon. Over the weekend, Gov. Nixon referred to SB 666 as a "Money for Mansions" plan and stated his opposition. This comes after publicly stating his opposition to HB 1253, HB 1257 and HB 1295 in previous weeks.

Conversations To Have Next Week

Because the General Assembly will not be in session next week, legislators are slated to be back home in their districts for a lengthy period of time. Administrators are urged to reach out to State Representatives and Senators to discuss the major issues that will be pending when they return on March 24th. 

  • First, urge all of your legislators to support the version of the House budget that was just passed out of the Budget Committee this week. This is the first time in several years, Missouri schools have seen the type of increases currently being discussed in both the formula and transportation. Also, the money that exists for the new testing model, including providing the ACT to every eleventh-grader is a huge step in the right direction for Missouri students. 
  • The school transfer issue is likely to be extremely contentious over the final eight weeks of session. Make sure your state representatives know what to expect. There is bound to be immense pressure on members to support a bill that is ultimately bad for kids and sets education in the state of Missouri back several years. Please refer to this memo for the reasons for our opposition to SB 493. Urge them instead to support HB 2037.
  • With the discussion of increased funding taking place this year, urge your legislators to be very careful on the topic of tax cuts. As Missouri's economy is turning around, schools are finally seeing the possibility of additional state resources. If the General Assembly is too reckless, our state could face a severely damaged budget. As many of you know Kansas is currently dealing with the fallout of their devastating move to eliminate all taxes on "passthrough" businesses like LLC's and sole proprietorships. Last week, the Kansas Supreme Court ruled that school funding was both inequitable and inadequate. Kansas now must figure out a way to come up with an immediate $120 million to address the equity issue, while a low court is set to decide how much the state must add to "adequately" fund the state's schools. Missouri does not need to be put in the same position.