Senate bill meant to encourage Missouri students to plan for their future, take advantage of opportunities

Missouri legislators and education organizations were excited about a plan to encourage students to think about their post-secondary future and apply for federal student aid.

SB 136, sponsored by Sen. Karla Eslinger, R-Wasola, would require the education department to set up a process for students to complete an individual career and academic plan, also called an ICAP. Under the bill, parents would be involved in the ICAP process, and it would be reviewed annually. During the student's senior year, they would make a declaration of their post-secondary plans, which are not "set in stone," Eslinger said, but the declaration requirement does ensure they make plans for their future.

It would also require school districts to establish a process to help students complete a FAFSA. Eslinger said it does not mandate completion of the FAFSA, but does provide the opportunity.

In Missouri, Eslinger said, $71.3 million was left on the table by 2021 graduates.

"And this is just money sitting there that they could access, if they were aware, to support their post-secondary plans," Eslinger told the Senate education committee during a hearing.

The bill was met with enthusiasm by one member of the committee.

"This could be the most impactful bill that we could pass this year," said Sen. Greg Razer, D-Kansas City.

It also received support from educational organizations including the Council on Public Higher Education, Missouri Department of Higher Education and Workforce Development, Missouri Council of School Administrators and Aligned, a nonprofit coalition of business leaders dedicated to improving Kansas and Missouri education.

"We wouldn't want any kid to miss an opportunity to go to college simply thinking that he or she didn't have the resources," said Stacey Preis of Aligned.

The bill also received some opposition from Missouri residents who were concerned about the role of DESE as the creator of the process outlined in the bill.

The committee also heard SB 163, sponsored by Sen. Mary Elizabeth Coleman, R-Arnold, which would allow companies to offer training that would increase the amount of money an employee would make, and the state would provide a portion of the income tax liability increase as a tax credit to the employer.

The funding would come from general revenue, subject to appropriations.

"The idea is that we're trying to encourage employers to create opportunities for their employees to substantively increase their income potential, and that the state would share in the cost of doing that," she said.

In executive session, the committee passed SB 40, sponsored by Sen. Holly Thompson Rehder, R-Sikeston, which would require background checks for adult students at schools during school hours, marijuana facility employees and residential care facility workers.

It also passed a substitute for SB 122, sponsored by Sen. Karla May, D-St. Louis, which would allow students to be excused from school for mental or behavioral health concerns with appropriate documentation. The committee passed a substitute for SB 175, sponsored by Sen. Andrew Koening, R-Manchester, which would prohibit employers from requiring a work permit for 14- to 16-year-olds to be employed, though parent permission would still be required.

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