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Missouri lawmakers look at performance funding, access to instructional materials

by Anna Campbell | March 23, 2022 at 4:00 a.m.

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- Education committees at the General Assembly discussed performance funding, alternate paths to diplomas and curriculum oversight in hearings Tuesday.

Rep. Adam Schwadron, R-St. Charles, presented HB 2008, which would require schools to make their materials and lesson plans available online. Schwadron said current statute does require schools to make instructional materials available, but doesn't specify the process.

"By adding to the statute that schools post the instructional materials online, it makes the school proactive, rather than reactive," he said.

Members of the committee were wary of requiring teachers to provide their lesson plans ahead of time.

Rep. Maggie Nurrenbern said the bill could "stymie" creativity and teaching on relevant events of the day.

Rep. Craig Fishel, R-Springfield, said he worried the legislation could be the final straw for teachers who already feel overburdened by bureaucratic tasks. Rep. Ian Mackey, D-St. Louis, said his days teaching young children were often spontaneous, so informing people about the plan for the day well ahead of time would be unreasonable.

Rep. Mike Henderson, R-Bonne Terre, spoke on HB 2152, an innovation waiver program he said would allow school districts to pursue solutions to areas where they are struggling without some of the regulations that might typically apply. A similar bill has already passed out of the Senate.

Rep. Bruce Sassman, R-Bland, presented on HB 2445, which would authorize the Gasconade R-2 School District, which encompasses multiple counties, to use the county that has the highest dollar value modifier for its state funding formula. Nurrenbern said she would be interested in opening the bill up to other districts in the same boat.

Committee Chair Chuck Basye, R-Rocheport, also presented on his bill, HB 1753, which would allow for recovery high schools that help people who have substance use disorders or similar conditions obtain a high school diploma.

The committee voted to pass three bills sponsored by Rep. Patricia Pike, R-Adrian: HB 1469,which changes the way local school districts are reimbursed for spending on high-needs students; HB 1471, which allows half-day schools to make up proportional days for inclement weather, rather than full days; and HB 2606, which would establish a school counseling week.

The committee also voted to pass Rep. Brenda Shields' HB 2150, also known as the Blind Students' Rights to Independence, Training and Education Act, or BRITE Act; HB 2575, sponsored by Rep. Richard West, R-Wentzville, which would require school boards to allow for an open forum period at their meetings; HB 2618 and 2492, sponsored by Rep. Bishop Davidson and Rep. Travis Fitzwater, which would allow synchronous instruction to be treated the same way as in-person learning at adult high schools, designate them as a "secondary school system" and exempt them from child care licensure; and HB 2652, sponsored by Rep. Mike Haffner, R-Pleasant Hill, which would change the metrics used in the accreditation of Missouri schools.

On the Senate side, education committee members discussed SB 957, which would create a workforce diploma program. It allows people who did not finish high school to obtain a diploma and employment skills.

The Senate education committee also heard SB 1051, sponsored by Rep. Rick Brattin, R-Harrisonville, which would allow extracurricular apprenticeships, internships and activities to be counted for school credit toward graduation if a school allows it.

Lawmakers also discussed SB 1077, a performance funding initiative for colleges and universities. Under the bill, the funding amount from the state for each university would be determined by the outcomes for that school's students.

One of the more controversial provisions was basing the outcome in part on graduate earnings.

Many senators said they felt it could shift focus to higher paying programs and de-emphasize degrees in lower-paying but necessary fields, such as teachers, police officers or other forms of public service.

Proponents said the bill was not perfect, but started an important conversation about the funding formula for colleges and universities.

Opponents argued it offered little room for improvement.

Paul Wagner of the Council on Public Higher Education said he opposed the legislation because the metric for funding would be based on the salaries of people who graduated six to 10 years earlier. He said the only way for schools to improve their funding would be to ask people in their late 20s and early 30s to find better paying jobs to increase the school's graduate earnings.

A long list of witnesses spoke on HB 1552, sponsored by Rep. Doug Richey, R-Excelsior Springs. It would shift money from Kansas City and St. Louis public schools over to charter schools, a move Richey said is intended to correct an inequity in funding and distribute funding based on enrollment. The bill has already passed out of the House. The measure drew ire from many in St. Louis who argue it would hurt public schools.

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