Weekly Update
May 7, 2021
Education Savings Accounts (ESA) Pass
Missouri school choice advocates secured a significant win yesterday with the final passage of HB 349 (Christofanelli), creating the state's first education savings account (ESA) program. 

The bill creates the "Missouri Empowerment Scholarship Accounts Program" and provides a 50% tax credit for donors who contribute to a qualifying educational assistance organization.

The program caps the tax credits awarded in any one calendar year at $50 million. That means there would be a maximum of approximately $100 million available for student scholarships.

The bill contains a rural carve-out where the provisions only apply to counties with a charter form of government OR any city with a population of at least 30,000.
Transportation funding must equal or exceed 40% of the projected amount necessary to fund public transportation state aid fully for HB 349 to take effect. According to budget estimates provided by the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, "Full transportation state aid funding for fiscal year 2021 is projected to require $315 million." In the fiscal note for HB 349, DESE reported that $278.9 million would be needed to fully fund transportation. The final $113.9 million that was appropriated for FY22 will exceed the 40% threshold.

The bill establishes qualifying tiers for the scholarships (equal to the state adequacy target of approximately $6,300 per student) as follows:
  1. students with "individualized education plans" OR students who qualify for free- and reduced lunch
  2. students who live in households whose total income does not exceed 200% of the free- and reduced-lunch income standard
  3. all other students
Families from the following counties and cities would be eligible for a scholarship account:
  • Clay County
  • Jackson County
  • Jefferson County
  • St. Charles County
  • St. Louis County
  • Springfield
  • Columbia
  • St. Joseph
  • St. Louis City
  • Joplin
  • Jefferson City
  • Cape Girardeau
Back of the napkin estimates suggest there are approximately 68,000 students with IEPs in the qualifying counties and cities and about 236,000 students who qualify for free- and reduced lunch in the qualifying cities and counties.  

If the ESA program receives $100 million in donations, that will provide scholarship funds for close to 16,000 students.

According to EdChoice, as of 2021, there are 29,336 students across the country using Education Savings Accounts (ESAs). There are active ESA programs in five states (Arizona, Florida, Mississippi, North Carolina, and Tennessee. Nevada's program, which would cover 95% of its student population, is embroiled in litigation.

Missouri News
Aligned Priorities

Bills moving...

Real-World Learning

HB 1304 (Henderson), a bill that ensures businesses are protected from liability claims when hosting real world learning opportunities was reported out of the Committee on House-Rules Legislative Oversight on 4/26.   Language from this bill was amended onto SB303 on 5/6.  

SB 152 now includes the Visiting Scholars language that allows the State Board of Education to grant temporary teaching certificates for hard-to-staff schools or hard-to-fill subject areas. That bill was voted out of the  House Rules - Legislative Oversight on Monday (5/3) and placed on the informal calendar on 5/5. The bill will receive a H Informal Calendar Senate Bills for Third Reading w/HCS on 5/10.

Early Care and Education

Language from HB 1071 (Shields) - a bill that extends the sunset on the Quality Assurance Report is now on SB 152 (Hoskins) and was added to SB 457 (Rizzo).  SB 152 was voted out of the  House Rules - Legislative Oversight on Monday (5/3) and placed on the informal calendar on 5/5. The bill will receive a H Informal Calendar Senate Bills for Third Reading w/HCS on 5/10.

Language to allow school districts to claim state-aid for half-day Kindergarten programs has been amended to HB 101 (Pollitt) and SB 152 (Hoskins).

There were no changes to legislation to increase state aid for Pre-K (HB 973) or provide counties with local authority to seek voter-approved property tax increases for early childhood (HB 865). These provisions will likely not advance this session. 

Innovative Practices

Language that creates the competency-based education task force is included in HB 624 and SB 152. And language that creates a competency-based education grant program is included in SB 152. Both of these bills have enough time to make it over the finish line if legislators prioritize education legislation.

You can find a full breakdown in our Aligned Capitol Report.

Other education legislation

HCS HB 137 (Richey) which fixes a glitch in the funding mechanism for distributing to charter schools their share of local revenue was passed out of Senate Committee on Education on 4/29. Senator Tony Luetkemeyer is the Senate handler.  The bill was voted Do pass and placed on the informal calendar on 5/7.

HB 733 (Patterson), a bill that establishes the "Workforce Diploma Program" within the Department of Higher Education and Workforce Development to allow vendors to provide services offering high school credits for degree completion, was passed by Senate Education by a 8-0 vote. The committee also amended this bill to include a provision that requires the state board of education to develop a statewide plan for career and technical education certificates and requires the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education to convene work groups to develop written model curriculum frameworks that may be used by districts. 

For a really deep dive on legislation check out Gov Watch.

For more details access the Aligned Priority Tracking Report
Legislative News

Here are a few toplines from the activity this week:
  • On Thursday, the House worked about three hours on HCS/SB 72 which relates to state designations. 
  • Governor Mike Parson issued an order to all state workers that they will return to "in-person" work no later than May 17.  The directive also ordered all state buildings to be totally accessible to the public during normal business hours. 
  • Missouri budget leaders are in an enviable position of having more state and federal dollars to appropriate than in any time in recent memory.  Of course, the majority of the new dollars in the state coffers are from the federal COVID recovery acts passed by Congress. But Missouri's net state general revenue funds for April were 30% more compared to the same time last year. 
Read all the details in our Aligned Capitol Report.

Budget Update

This week the General Assembly finished crafting the $35.1 billion FY2022 budget. Before the two chambers met in conference this week, they were roughly $3.1 billion apart on their versions of the budget. The biggest item requested by Governor Mike Parson was $1.9 billion, of which roughly $130 million was GR, for the expansion of Medicaid and was left out of the budget. Also included in the budget is funding for badly needed maintenance and repair and capital improvements across the state. The bills are now sent to the Governor for his signature or line-item veto.

See our Aligned Capitol Report for budget details.

Kansas News

Legislative Update 

Lawmakers reach tentative education budget agreement
 
After weeks of debate on a host of controversial education bills, lawmakers worked through the committee process to propose a compromise bill which also fully funds the education formula for the next two years.  We expect both chambers to vote on this bill next week.

Provisional highlights from the compromised bill, HB2134, include:

  • PK-12 Finance Funding - The bill contains appropriations to fully fund the state funding formula under the Gannon Ruling for 2021-22 and 2022-23. It will provide $5.7 billion in school funding, an amount requested by Governor Laura Kelly to meet Gannon Funding requirements.
  • Concurrent Enrollment - this will allow, but not require, school districts to pay all or a portion of postsecondary tuition and fees for high school students enrolled in dual or concurrent enrollment courses.
  • ACT/Workkeys for all students - any Kansas student enrolled in an accredited private school can take the ACT, Workkeys and pre-ACT at no cost.
  • Expansion of Private School Scholarship Tax Credit - This bill will amend the current program offering tax credits for contributions for scholarships for private schools. Student eligibility will be expanded from students eligible for free lunch to students eligible for free and reduced-price lunches.   In addition, any Kansas student, not just those in the 100 lowest performing schools K-8 can leverage the fund. Students can access up to $8,000 per year which is renewable. During the 2020-2021 school year, 632 students were awarded scholarships totaling approximately $2.0 million.
  • Dyslexia Funding - $80,000 will be appropriated to add additional support for addressing dyslexia resources in school districts, including teacher training in higher education.
  • Education bonuses of $500 - recommends a $500 bonus be paid to teachers, paras, and other hourly employees employed in the 2020-21 school years as support for the challenges of dealing with COVID.
  • High Density At-Risk - Extends the sunset of the high-density at risk weighting until 2024 and also requires an at-risk legislative post audit to be conducted in 2023 to monitor the use of these funds.
  • Foster Care Report Cards - requires an annual report on the educational outcomes of students in foster care.
  • Remote Learning Restrictions - restricts the amount of time a school districts can operate in a remote learning model without counting students as virtual. The bill would reduce yearly per-pupil state aid to $5,000 if a full-time student attends school remotely for more than 240 hours during a state of emergency or 40 hours in the case where there was no emergency.
  • School Board Budgeting - this will guide school boards in their budgeting process to direct funds to improve student achievement and allocate funding to achieve the education goals for successful students outlined in the Rose capacities.

"We believe the House and Senate, Republicans and Democrats are going to definitely find things in here that they can support," said Republican state Sen. Molly Baumgardner, chair of the Senate Education Committee. "We have tried to respond in every way to the different concerns that we have heard from our school districts' leadership, from our teachers," Baumgardner said.  "The bottom line is what this bill will offer is the focus on what's best for our kids," she said.

Two issues remain...
Lawmakers left a couple of items on the table this week. The omnibus appropriations bill currently includes $53 million for higher education, which is half of the funding required by Federal maintenance of effort guidelines. Governor Laura Kelly recommended the $53 million appropriated for 2022, and $108 million for 2023, seeking a waiver from the US Department of Education on the maintenance of effort requirement for 2022.

School leaders are still waiting on the 20-mill statewide school levy that must be reauthorized for the next two years before session ends.   The Senate passed an extension of the levy in its amendments to HB 2313, which is now in conference committee.  The bill would re-authorize the 20-mill property tax levy for school years 2021-2022 and 2022-2023. The bill would continue the exemption of residential property up to $20,000 of its appraised valuation from the 20- mill property tax levy for taxable years 2021 and 2022.
 
Thank a teacher!
As we wrap up national Teacher Appreciation Week, I can't help but think about the teachers who influenced my life the most, the teachers who helped me get where I am today. If you have not already done so, take five minutes to reach out and thank those teachers who impacted your life.  I will be sure to thank Mrs. Baker, Mr. Chapman, and Mrs. Collins this week.  

All our best,

Torree Pederson
Torree@WeAreAligned.org
(913) 484-4202

Linda Rallo
Linda@WeAreAligned.org
(314) 330-8442