As the Missouri Legislature returns to the capitol from spring break, today we want to update you on what happened during the first nine weeks of the Legislative Session and what we expect the next nine weeks will have in store for education issues.
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We’re at a standstill on education issues at this time, said MSTA’s Mike Wood, Director of Governmental Relations. We’ve had no piece of major legislation dealing with education that has been on the House or Senate floor.
“I think we’ve seen an effort [House Bill 1740] by the Chairman of the House Education Committee to try and put a piece forward and I think he was pretty well stonewalled in that effort,” Wood said. “He tried to put too much into one bill and what he found out was that there was something in there for everybody to hate.”
The original intent probably was to have a bill with room for negotiation, an “I’ll give you this, if you vote for this,” situation. But what ended up happening is the Chairman of the House Education Committee, Scott Dieckhaus, ended up losing votes instead of gaining votes with that method. Wood said, the popular belief among those in the capitol was the tenure portion was meant to be a bargaining chip to be used in an “if I take the tenure portion our, will you vote for the bill?”
“I think he found out that the tuition tax credit as much as anything was causing issues with that bill,” he said.
Wood said he isn’t sure what will happen with this piece of legislation in the next nine weeks. It’s possible it might be broken up into separate bills or dropped.
Senator Jane Cunningham passed several bills [Including Senate Bill 806] similar to House Bill 1740 through the General Laws Committee, but so far none of those have made it to the Senate Floor.
“It’s doubtful that they will,” Wood said. “We will wait to see if it gets put on the calendar. If it gets put on the calendar, then obviously we’ll crank up the machine and we’ll let people have their voices heard.”
The next nine weeks could bring pressure from the Senate to the House to bring an education related bill to the floor. This could potentially come from the Senate in regards to unaccredited school districts.
A bill has passed the House and the Senate is working on their version of the bill that would allow the State Board of Education to come in and take over unaccredited school districts, such as the Kansas City district.
“I think that piece of legislation could become the springboard to talk about how we are going to deal with students in unaccredited districts,” Wood said. “How we are going to let them transfer, or not into the suburban districts. How and what that looks like. I think that’s an important piece and we need to have that discussion. I think everyone should be concerned with that.”
Wood said the second real issue is any chamber willing to take up and discuss changes to the foundation formula so there is less of an impact of this underfunding that we are experiencing.
“I said going into the session if we did something for students in unaccredited school districts, we looked at modifications and passed modifications to the foundation formula and passed a budget that would be a great year for education in Missouri,” he said.
Whether that will happen or not still remains to be seen. In the mean time, our members should be prepared to take action when a Rapid Response alert goes out and continue to develop relationships with their Legislators.