Over the past year, concerns about COVID policies, critical race theory and controversial books have highlighted tensions in public education.
Additionally, the pandemic has exacerbated teacher shortages and increased calls for ‘school choice’ for families – which could include charter schools, virtual schools, or state support to attend private schools. .
The Missouri legislature took note.
A Missouri House pre-classified 2022 Bills Subject Index on Thursday shows that “elementary and secondary education” is the most popular subject, with 84 bills tabled. Crimes and Punishments come second with 69 bills.
The Missouri Senate doesn’t sort pre-classified bills by subject, but a Beacon analysis found more than 40 K-12 education-related bills tabled in mid-December.
A given bill may not be heard by a committee, let alone be debated by the entire legislature or promulgated. Lawmakers can also amend bills at several stages of the process.
But this list gives some idea of how Missouri officials and senators are seeking to address some of the most current K-12 education challenges.
Critical Race Theory and “Divisive Concepts”
At least a dozen bills seek to regulate the teaching of controversial topics, including racism, sexism and LGBTQ-related content.
Several bills, such as Republican Representative Hardy Billington’s HB 1457, would ban schools from teaching Project 1619, a New York Times initiative focused on how slavery and the contributions of black Americans are central to the understanding of the history of the United States. Billington is from Poplar Bluff.
The bills, many of which use similar language, enumerate a litany of concepts that schools would not be allowed to teach, such as that the United States is inherently racist or sexist, that people are responsible for actions taken in the government. passed by those of the same race or gender, or that people are subconsciously biased solely because of their race or gender.
One example, HB 1767, is sponsored by Rep. Chris Sander, a Republican from Lone Jack. Under this bill, schools could not promote the concept that “the rule of law does not exist, but rather is a series of power relations and struggles between racial or other groups. “
Some bills, such as Senator Rick Brattin’s SB 694, explicitly prohibit schools from teaching critical race theory or related concepts. Brattin is a Republican from Harrisonville.
Critical Race Theory is an academic concept typically taught at the graduate level, but it has become a catch-all term for any concepts related to race or diversity that parents or politicians find objectionable.
A proposal by Rep. Chuck Basye, a Republican from Rocheport, would give parents more control over sexual orientation lessons (HB 1752). His proposal would require schools to notify parents of their intention to teach such content and allow them to remove their children from the classroom if they object. Current law requires a similar process before sex education classes.
Course of Study
Some bills would allow or require districts to add content or entire courses on specific topics, such as:
Other proposals would add more control to the school curriculum.
Rep. Dan Shaul, an Imperial Republican, proposed a law (HB 1908) that would require school boards to review the curriculum each year in at least one public hearing.
And while Missouri law already allows anyone to inspect the public school curriculum, a proposal by Representative John Wiemann of O’Fallon (HB 1834) would ensure that residents of school districts could do so at no cost within 45 days following the request. Wiemann is a Republican.
Several lawmakers are working to prevent schools from issuing mask or vaccine warrants.
Senator Andrew Koenig, a Republican from Manchester, has proposed that SB 646 ban public schools from requiring face coverings or COVID vaccination for students. Under the bill, schools could require students to be tested or quarantined only if they have previously tested positive for COVID-19 or are showing symptoms.
A proposal from Rep. Nick Schroer, a Republican from O’Fallon, also applies to higher education and bans vaccine requirements for employees and students. The invoice is 1475 HB.
Rep. Brian Seitz, a Republican from Branson, seeks to include “conscientious” objection as an exception to all school vaccine requirements in his HB 1665. Parents may already be granted exemptions for their children for religious or religious reasons. medical.
Lawmakers on both sides have tabled versions of a “Parents Bill of Rights”.
Senatorial Minority Leader John Rizzo, an Independence Democrat, includes the rights of parents to make direct health decisions, access health and mental health records, access educational materials and programs, consent to biometric registrations or collection, and to be informed of investigations.
The proposal, SB 653, also specifies that districts should make available information on clubs and activities, school choice opportunities, vaccines and how to receive special education.
Similar proposals from Republicans cover many of the same topics, sometimes in more detail or with additional rights.
For example, Brattin’s SB 776 is one of many that say parents have the right to object to lesson material and to ensure that the school does not teach such material to their children. He also says that parents have the right to visit their children during school.
Broaden the choice of school
Improving ‘choice of school’ – generally conceived of as the expansion of charter schools and making it easier for parents to choose home schooling, virtual school or private school – has been a question. controversial in the legislature in recent years.
School choice supporters are once again trying to expand parents’ options, which opponents say could hurt traditional public schools.
Several bills, including SB 648, sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Caleb Rowden, a Republican from Colombia, would give parents the power to decide whether their children can enroll in Missouri’s Virtual Class Access Program. . Currently, school districts have the final decision.
Senator Bill Eigel, a Republican from Weldon Spring, tabled SB 650 to expand charter schools to anywhere in the state’s charter counties (which include Jackson County and three area counties in the St. Louis) as well as in cities over 30,000. The bill’s summary lists 15 proposals from the past three years that are similar to Eigel’s.
With rare exceptions, charter schools are currently only permitted in the Kansas City and St. Louis school districts.
Other proposals, such as HB 1552 from Rep. Doug Richey, would adjust the way charter schools are funded. Richey is a Republican from Excelsior Springs.
Under legislation sponsored by Representative Brad Pollitt, a Republican from Sedalia, students could attend a public school outside their district under certain circumstances (HB 1814).
Finally, Schroer, the Republican of St. Charles, filed HB 1916 to offer a refundable tax credit to parents who pay tuition at a private school or at a public school outside their district.
Supervision of school boards
Several bills would give parents more control over members of school boards.
Several proposals, such as Senator Mike Cierpiot’s SB 657, would establish a procedure for voters to remove school board members. Cierpiot is a Lee’s Summit Republican.
A proposal by Basye, Republican of Rocheport, would allow registered voters to petition to put items on the school board’s agenda (HB 1750).
Rep. Jeff Porter, a Republican from Montgomery City, introduced legislation to reduce public benefits for families if their children have low school attendance (HB 1493).
Other laws extend the age range of children to attend school.
A proposal from Ian Mackey, a Democrat from St. Louis, would change the starting age to 5 (HB 1942).
Ann Kelley, a Republican from Lamar, introduced a bill (HB 1802) that would also change the starting age to 5 and require students to attend school until the age of 18, unless that they don’t finish high school sooner. The superintendent could still exempt students as young as 14 from attending school full time if they have a job.
Addressing teacher shortages
As schools face teacher shortages, some proposals aim to fill positions in high demand areas.
A proposal by Representative Ed Lewis would allow schools to adjust their salary plans to provide incentives for teachers in hard-to-recruit subjects or schools (HB 1770). Lewis is a Moberly Republican.
Currently, schools must have a single “salary grid” that applies to all teachers.
Teachers are also allowed to return from retirement for up to two years without affecting their benefits, as long as there is a shortage of certified teachers in the district.
A proposal from Representative Rusty Black, a Republican from Chillicothe, would extend the time limit to four years (HB 1881).
Suspensions and expulsions
Mackey, the Democrat of St. Louis, introduced a bill that would require extensive record keeping on school discipline that removes students from the classroom, such as suspensions or expulsions.
His proposal, HB 1899, would also ban schools from expelling kindergarten to grade three students in most cases.