Weekly Update
January 22, 2021
Biden signs executive order to support reopening schools and early childhood centers
In light of this week's presidential inauguration, we are taking a quick look at executive actions and appointments related to federal education. 

President Joe Biden signed an executive order yesterday to provide guidance on how to safely reopen schools and early childhood education providers for in-person learning. His goal is to have a majority of K-8 schools open in his first 100 days

In December, then President-elect Biden announced he had selected Connecticut education Commissioner Miguel Cardona to serve as the next U.S. secretary of education, praising Cardona's ability to balance virtual and in-person learning. Politico published a more detailed report on Biden's decision. 

This week, President Biden nominated San Diego Unified Superintendent Cindy Marten to serve as deputy secretary of education. Marten has decades of experience working in diverse schools where a high percentage of students qualify for free- and reduced lunch. 

Also this week, the president appointed Jessica Rosenworcel as acting chair of the Federal Communications Commission. Rosenworcel supports net neutrality and extending broadband to every child in the country to close the homework gap.  
Senate Education Chair Cindy O'Laughlin, R-Shelbina. PHOTO CREDIT: Missouri Times
Missouri News
Legislative Update
Due to a rise in COVID-19 cases and security concerns over potential protests at the capitol, the House did not meet or have committee hearings this week. Despite the House's absence, the Senate did meet for Session and held hearings on numerous priority bills. On Tuesday, the Senate Judiciary Committee heard two bills addressing liability protections against civil lawsuits relating to COVID. 

The Senate Education Committee heard a bill dealing with the expansion of charter schools and a second bill to establish a state tax credit scholarship account program, more details below. 

On Wednesday, the Senate Health and Pensions Committee heard over half a dozen bills that would limit local health officials' ability to issue emergency health orders. A lot of that discussion centered on St. Louis County Executive Sam Page and his executive ordered COVID restrictions' economic impact. Finally, on Thursday, the Senate Government Accountability Committee held a hearing on a bill that would crackdown on illegal gaming devices. The state gaming commission does not regulate these slot machine-like devices, often found in gas stations, convenience stores, and liquor stores. Senate Pro Tem Dave Schatz has made it a priority to eliminate or regulate these "grey market" games.

Both the House and Senate are scheduled to be in session next week. However, the situation remains fluid as a Republican senator tested recently tested positive for COVID-19. 
Education Update
The Senate Education Committee convened Tuesday afternoon to discuss SB 23, sponsored by Senator Andrew Koenig (R-Manchester), and SB 25, sponsored by Senator Bill Eigel (R-St. Charles). The legislation creates the "Missouri Empowerment Scholarship Accounts Program" and specifies that any taxpayer may claim a tax credit, not to exceed 50% of the taxpayer's state tax liability, for any qualifying contribution to an educational assistance organization for all tax years beginning on or after July 1, 2022. The cumulative amount of tax credits issued in any one calendar year shall not exceed $50 million.

Additionally, SB 25 includes provisions regarding the expansion of charter schools. If passed, charter school operations would be allowed to operate, upon approval, in any school district located within a charter county and any municipality with a population greater than 30,000. The Missouri School Boards Association says this will impact 61 districts. 

The Missouri State Treasurer Scott Fitzpatrick provided supporting testimony regarding empowerment accounts, and numerous parents were on hand to support charter school expansion. 

The Missouri School Board AssociationMissouri School Administrators AssociationMissouri State Teachers Association, and American Federation of Teachers went on record to oppose the bill, stating that money earmarked in the bill should go for existing statutory and budgetary obligations. Additionally, the current language does not provide any tax payer accountability in the charter provisions. They that they are not opposed to charter schools but believe the current system does not work efficiently. 

The committee rolled SB 23 and SB 23 into a  substitute for SB 55
  • Provisions relating to recall of school board elections.
  • Provisions relating to term limits for state school board members.
  • Provisions relating to the Missouri course access program.
  • Increases to the tax credits allocation from $50 million to $100 million
The SCS was adopted and voted do pass - 5-4 with Senators Elaine Gannon, Lauren Arthur, Greg Razor and Jill Schupp voting no.
Kansas News

Legislative Update 
Senator Molly Baumgarder, R-Louisburg
It was a busy week for the 
Senate Education Committee, chaired by Senator Molly BaumgardnerThe committee reintroduced several bills vetoed by the Governor last session.

We are closely following the following Senate education bills:

SB 32 - Tuition reimbursement for dual or concurrent enrollment
This bill lowers or eliminates college courses' cost burden for high school students wishing to take dual credit or concurrent enrollment courses.

SB 43 - the Kansas Promise Scholarship Act 
This bill provide post-secondary educational scholarships for certain two-year associate degree programs, career and technical education certificates, and other stand-alone programs. This action failed last year mainly due to the $10 million fiscal note.

SB 51Foster care children academic report card
This bill requires the State Department of Education and the Department for Children and Families to publish a Kansas foster care children academic report card. Governor Laura Kelly issued an executive order last session to implement this; however, to ensure this law continues after Kelly leaves office, the legislature will need to pass a bill. 

In the House, school choice remained front and center in committee discussions. To prepare for the hearing on  HB 2068, the K-12 committee received a briefing on "school choice" on Wednesday. The House K-12 Education Budget Committee will hear HB 2068 on Tuesday, January 26th at 3:30 p.m.  

This program provides state income tax credits for contributions to organizations that fund scholarships for certain children to attend qualified private schools. The proposed legislation makes several changes:
  • Under current law, to be eligible, students must also be eligible for free meals. The bill expands coverage to those also eligible for reduced-price meals. 
  • Under current law, an eligible student must also be attending a public elementary school identified by the State Board of Education as one of the lowest 100 performing elementary schools with respect to student achievement among all public elementary schools or must be under the age of six and eligible to be enrolled in such elementary schools (unless the student has previously received a scholarship). The bill would change this to allow any free/reduced meal eligible students attending any public school in the state, not limited to the lowest-performing elementary schools. These changes would significantly increase the number of students eligible for the program. However, the bill does not change the dollar funding available to the program through tax credits, which are capped.
  • The bill requires participating private schools to provide a link to the State Department of Education's webpage for certain accreditation and accountability reports. The link shall be prominently displayed on the school's accountability reports webpage. 
Former House of Representatives member Maynard Wallace: Photo credit: Tim Bommel
Former Missouri education chair passes
Former State Representative Maynard Wallace, R-Thornfield, died suddenly at his home last Sunday according to an obituary from Clinkingbeard Funeral Homes. Wallace served in the Missouri House from 2003-2010 and chaired the House Committee on Elementary and Secondary Education in his final term. He also served on the State Board of Education for three years. Wallace spent 33 years in public education working as a high school basketball coach and many years as a school superintendent. 

State Senator Karla Eslinger told reporter Brian Hauswirth from Missourinet that Wallace was a statesman. "The difference between a politician and a statesman is that a politician is worried about the next election, a statesman is worried about the next generation. And I think that is definitely Maynard Wallace."
Notes on next week

Last week we promised to deliver a full legislative report in this week's newsletter, that's delayed until next week due to illness (everyone is fine). 

We also will do our best to break down the school choice legislation in more detail and give you our best unbiased takes on how these provisions effect student learning and if they hit the mark on providing equity, access and accountability.

Have a wonderful weekend.

All the best,

Torree Pederson
(913) 484-4202

Linda Rallo
(314) 330-8442