Reading, literacy bill becoming education omnibus bill

JEFFERSON CITY -- As the Missouri General Assembly's legislative session quickly winds down, representatives have been tacking their bills onto other legislation in an effort to get things across the finish line.

Senate Bill 681, a bill that began as an effort to improve reading and literacy, became one such bill in the House Committee on Elementary and Secondary Education. Sponsored by Sen. Cindy O'Laughlin, R-Shelbina, the bill increased in scope as it gained several amendments Thursday in an executive session of the committee.

Rep. Paula Brown, D-Hazelwood, the ranking minority member on the committee, said the bill sponsor had made it clear she didn't want the bill to be amended, but Brown felt the amendments were not too problematic.

"I'm excited to see that these amendments are not controversial and only a couple make me grit my teeth, so I hope that we can get through this quickly, and I hope we can satisfy and get this bill across the floor," she said.

Rep. Mike Haffner, R-Pleasant Hill, added a provision that would require school districts scoring in the bottom 5 percent on their Annual Performance Reports to send a letter notifying parents, and display the information on the state education department's website and the the district's website.

Rep. Maggie Nurrenbern worried that amendment could bog down the underlying bill and said she'd vote no on the amendment because she'd "hate to see anything that could possibly tank this."

The amendment was added to the bill.

Rep. Rusty Black, R-Chillicothe, added his bill that would alter the Career Ladder Program.

The Career Ladder program is an incentive program that pays teachers for extra duties such as supervision of a club. Missouri hasn't funded Career Ladder since 2010, but some local schools have continued to use the program by paying only their share of the incentive. The program has taken center stage this year as an effort to increase teacher pay, and the House set aside about $37 million for the program next year.

Under Black's changes, teachers would be eligible to join Career Ladder after just two years of service instead of five, and the state would pay 60 percent of the cost instead of the previous 40 percent.

Also added to the bill were provisions to allow alternative vehicles besides school buses to be used for transportation to school, require schools to share how ARPA funding was used, and require schools to inform parents when a child was removed from a classroom for a disruption.

That last provision was also passed out of the committee separately as HB 1836.

SB 681 passed out of committee with all the extra provisions.

The committee also passed a modified version of HB 2745, sponsored by Rep. Rodger Reedy, R-Windsor, which would require driver's education to graduate high school.

Reedy said he reworked the bill with the help of Reps. Brown and Pollitt after some members of the committee called it an "unfunded mandate" and talked about how expensive driver's education equipment can be.

Instead of its own course, as originally proposed, the driver's education curriculum would be part of an existing course.

"We incorporated this curriculum into the health curriculum in the schools because right now they're already requiring a semester of health, and so this could be health and safety, and just have a section in there that would be in driver's education," Reedy said. "It would be an in-class thing. It wouldn't be in a vehicle, so that would cut the cost down a lot as far as the fiscal note."

Reedy's bill was passed out of committee.

HB 2844, sponsored by Rep. Travis Smith, R-Dora, which would protect school employees from liability for administering first aid or medication such as an epinephrine injector, also passed out of the committee.


SB 681: Modifies provisions regarding educational outcomes

Sponsor: Sen. Cindy O’Laughlin

HB 2745: Driver education course

Sponsor: Rep. Rodger Reedy

HB 2844: Liability protections for school district employees

Sponsor: Rep. Travis Smith