JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- In a hurried hearing Tuesday, the Missouri Senate Education Committee passed House Bill 1858, a "Parents' Bill of Rights," and discussed school protection officers and reports on early learning.
Rep. Ben Baker, R-Neosho, presented HB 1858, one of many "Parents' Bill of Rights" bills this legislative session. The bill enumerates several rights, including a right to see curriculum, know about guest lecturers, know about school contracts and funding, visit the school and check on their child, view their child's records, know about the collection of their child's data, have "sufficient and effective accountability and transparency regarding school boards," and know about safety situations at school.
Members of the committee are concerned about the clarity of some of the language.
Sen. Mike Cierpiot, R-Lee's Summit, asked about a line in the bill that said, "No school or school employee shall compel a teacher or student to discuss public policy issues of the day."
Cierpiot said in school his teachers discussed Vietnam with the class, and wondered whether that line would prohibit such discussions.
Baker said the line was intended to prevent teachers from compelling students to believe certain viewpoints.
Sen. Jill Schupp, D-Creve Coeur, said she thought the provision allowing parents to come into the classroom would be very distracting to students and teachers.
Baker said the bill allows schools to set limitations on where parents can visit.
Sen. Lauren Arthur, D-Kansas City, also thought the language was not specific enough, pointing to the "sufficient and effective accountability" clause.
Several people and groups testified for and against the legislation. Supporters called the legislation a step toward transparency and parental involvement, while opponents said the language was broad and would limit important discussions, such as conversations about race, in the classroom.
Chairwoman Sen. Cindy O'Laughlin stopped testimony early as the legislators began hearing the call to the floor, leaving several people still waiting to testify.
"Before we take a vote, on this committee we try to work together, and we do work together pretty well. And I understand the emotional content of the people who have testified both for and against. I think that we do have reasonable people here, and I think that we can come to a conclusion that is not too aggressive but maybe addresses some of the concerns that parents have," O'Laughlin said.
O'Laughlin said while the committee would hopefully move the bill forward, it would continue to work on it.
The committee then passed the bill 5-3.
Also heard by the committee was HB 1481, presented by Rep. Chris Dinkins, R-Lesterville, which would allow school districts to designate any school personnel as a school protection officer, rather than just a teacher or administrator. That person would be permitted to carry a concealed weapon and would undergo over 112 hours of training.
Sen. Rick Brattin, R-Harrisonville, said he was glad to see the bill.
Brattin said a school in his district had done a drill to measure its response time in an active shooter situation and determined that it would be five minutes before a school resource officer could engage the shooter. Brattin said this legislation could allow for protection officers to be strategically placed around the school, shortening response times.
Scott Kimble, of the Missouri Association of School Administrators, spoke in support of the bill, saying it was not a mandate but provided schools with more options, and Kristin Bowen of Moms Demand Action spoke against it, saying it would increase the presence of firearms in schools.
Brattin told Bowen all school protection officers would undergo the same training, whether they were administrators, teachers or staff.
The committee also heard Rep. Brenda Shields' HB 2365, which would make the early learning quality assurance reporting program permanent, rather than a pilot program. The program created an improvement report for early learning programs to get guidance on how they can do better.
The committee adjourned to head to the floor, where they discussed more education legislation.
Senators voted to pass the Senate version of the budget for the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. Among the Senate changes to the House budget were reinstatement of the governor's plan to raise minimum teacher pay to $38,000 and an increase in funding for that initiative, full funding for transportation, and funding for literacy programs. The Senate also retained House funding for the career ladder program, which awards teachers between $1,500-$5,000 if they take on extra duties such as supervising a club.
"Being able to pay teachers if they go above and beyond I think is (worthwhile). That's what career ladder enables districts to do -- about as close to merit pay that's acceptable to folks as is out there," said Sen. Dan Hegeman, appropriations committee chairman.
HB 1858: Parents Bill of Rights
Sponsor: Rep. Ben Baker
HB 1481: School protection officers
Sponsor: Rep. Chris Dinkins
HB 2365: Early learning quality assurance report
Sponsor: Rep. Brenda Shields