Education Bill Passes House Committee Without Revision

April 06, 2024


Missouri news network

JEFFERSON CITY — A sizeable Senate education bill is making its way through the Missouri House of Representatives with signs it could be passed without amendments from the lower chamber.

These signs were underscored Tuesday morning when the House Special Committee on Education Reform voted 6-2 to pass Senate Bill 727 without making any additional changes to the bill’s text.

The bill had been stuck in a Democratic filibuster in the Senate until a package of amendments were added. The legislation includes provisions for approximately 21 items involving elementary and secondary education. The complicated agreements that allowed the bill to pass the Senate is one reason House leaders might favor adopting the bill without amendments.

Rep. Cheri Toalson Reisch, R-Hallsville, serves on the committee and voted in favor of the bill. She highlighted the bill’s expansion of the Missouri Empowerment Scholarship Accounts Program, an increase in teacher pay and a provision allowing for charter schools in Boone County.

Toalson Reisch authored a separate bill passed by the committee earlier this session to permit charter schools in Boone County.

Boone County legislators Rep. Kathy Steinhoff, D-Columbia; Rep. Adrian Plank, D-Columbia; Rep. Doug Mann, D-Columbia; and Rep. David Tyson Smith, D-Columbia, all said they anticipate voting against the legislation.

The legislators cited their opposition to the provision allowing charter schools to operate in Boone County without the permission of local school districts, which is required in most other parts of the state. Columbia Public Schools and other school districts in the county have objected to the provision.

Smith said he plans to file an amendment to remove the charter school provision from the final bill.

“We’re going to try and amend the bill in a couple of different ways,” Plank said. “First, to pull that language out. If that doesn’t work, then we’ll see if we can get it put to a vote in Boone County because it won’t pass.”

In addition to her opposition to charter schools, Steinhoff raised concerns over expansion of the Missouri Empowerment Scholarship Accounts Program, commonly referred to as MOScholars. Steinhoff said she feels taxpayer dollars could be better appropriated than to expand access to private and religious schools.

Chair of the Special Committee on Education Reform, Rep. Bishop Davidson, R-Republic, said the goal is to not “jeopardize the overall package” by adding amendments to the bill. In its current form, Davidson feels the bill has a path forward to become law this session.

The bill was developed over many months in the Senate, Bishop said. He said that process accounted for opinions from the House during those negotiations.

Rep. Ian Mackey, D-St. Louis, a member of the education reform committee, voiced his displeasure during the brief hearing Tuesday morning. Mackey authored three amendments to the bill, but did not offer them for consideration due to the likelihood of the amendments being voted down by the Republican majority.

Mackey wanted to include language addressing the expansion of the MOScholars program to preschool, ending seclusion rooms and eliminating zero-tolerance policies in the case of disciplinary action.

Mackey said he was not consulted on items to include in the legislation.

“I was really 50-50,” Mackey said, “and I think had I had a chance to sit down and actually help craft the legislation ... it probably would have tipped me from 49% to 51%.”

The general consensus among lawmakers appeared to be that while not perfect, the legislation will accomplish needed improvements for elementary and secondary education in the state. The disagreement stems from which items in the bill will provide positive change for students.