Missouri’s curriculum additions and teacher recruitment and retention efforts took center stage Tuesday at the Missouri House Committee on Elementary-Secondary Education meeting.
Rep. Chuck Basye, R-Rocheport, introduced his bill, HB 1933, which would require the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education to provide a “civil rights era” curriculum that addresses the Armenian Genocide, the Holocaust and other civil rights violations.
Promo opposed the legislation, saying the bill portrayed discrimination as a thing of the past, rather than an ongoing struggle. The bill also clashed with history professor Linda Uselmann, who said it was unnecessary since the civil rights curriculum was already taught in Missouri. The Missouri State Conference of the NAACP also opposed the bill.
Representative Ben Baker, R-Neosho, introduced HB 2292, which would allow schools to offer Bible electives. Brian Kaylor, editor of Word and Way, a Christian magazine, and associate director of Churchnet, opposed the legislation because he feared the state would pick winners and losers in religion and said the Bible could already be taught.
The House Education Committee has passed a replacement bill for HB 1770. The basic bill, sponsored by Rep. Ed Lewis, R-Moberly, would allow schools to differentiate salaries to attract teachers to hard-to-reach areas. staff. Other education bills had been added by the time the bill left committee on Tuesday.
The bill was expanded to phase out teachers from state income tax over three years, a proposal that was floated by Budget Chairman Rep. Cody Smith, R-Carthage.
It also sets the minimum salary for teachers at $28,000 instead of the current $25,000, which will be raised over the next four years to $32,000. It increases the minimum salary for teachers with a master’s degree and 10 years of experience to $36,000 and then to $40,000 over the next four years and requires that the minimum salary for teachers be adjusted each year to take into account of inflation.
The bill also contains a provision that expands the certification of visiting teachers and provides alternative certification routes for teachers who are provisionally certified. The bill also expands the career ladder program, which allows teachers to be paid additionally for activities outside of their normal pay, including coaching, supervising, mentoring or tutoring, teacher training or helping students prepare for college or a career. It also includes 60% state funding and sets the number of years of experience a teacher must have to participate at two rather than five.
Just last week, the House Budget Committee redirected funds from the governor’s proposed teacher salary enhancement grant program to the career ladder program, which has not been funded. by the state for more than a decade.
Lawmakers worried that Gov. Parson’s plan, which would provide partial public funding to top up teachers’ salaries under $38,000, would squeeze salaries and hurt veteran teachers.
Budget committee members were also concerned that the appropriations could not be sustained in the future, leaving the door open to the possibility that local school districts could lose state support. That budget received initial approval on the court Tuesday and funding for the career ladder program was increased by an additional $15.673 million.
The substitute for HB 1770 was rejected by the committee largely along partisan lines.
Rep. Josh Hurlbert, R-Smithville, introduced a bill that would expand the Empowerment Scholarship Account program to all counties with a population of 100,000 or more. This would include Boone, Cass, Clay, Franklin, Greene, Jackson, Jasper, Jefferson, Platte, St. Charles and St. Louis counties.
Hurlbert said his constituents requested the change because they wanted to participate in the program. The Empowerment Scholarship Accounts program passed last year and is often referred to as “school choice” legislation.
A parent who lives outside the city limits of Columbia spoke out in favor of the bill, saying he was surprised to learn they couldn’t participate in the program originally. The Missouri State Teachers Association spoke out against the bill, saying it would expand a curriculum that has yet to be tested.