One of the biggest pieces of legislation the General Assembly has been working on this year is the SB 493 (Student Transfer Bill). The Missouri statutes and court decisions allow students to transfer out of unaccredited school districts, and recently approximately 2,000 students have transferred out of the unaccredited Normandy and Riverview Garden districts in the St. Louis area. This could also happen soon in the Kansas City School districts. While the law allows students to attend schools in accredited districts, their original districts have to pay the costs of the transfer. Due to the amount of money the district spent on transferring students the Normandy school district became bankrupt. Earlier this session, the legislature approved $2 million in supplemental funds so the remaining 4,500 students could finish the school year.
SB 493 is a compromise that addresses the most serious of the problems providing a fair result for students, individual schools, and districts involved in the transfer issue. First, instead of an uncontrolled mass exodus of students from a district, which can put an immense strain on the budget for both the sending and receiving districts, SB 493 establishes a “regional educational authority” that will oversee transfers. Second, students must have attended an unaccredited school for one semester before applying for a transfer. This prevents students who attend private schools from taking advantage of the public system’s short comings. Third, in unaccredited districts, individual schools will also receive an accreditation and transfers must first go to these schools within the district before going to neighboring districts. Fourth, for students who have to transfer out of the district, the unaccredited district must pay 70% of the tuition costs, and additional money for transportation costs. Fifth, the bill allows receiving districts to establish their own policies on class size and student-teacher ratios, and they are not required to accept transfers that would violate these limits.
And finally, a much debated aspect of this bill is the option to allow students from the unaccredited districts in St. Louis and Kansas City to transfer to private, nonsectarian schools. The bill mandates private schools that accept the transfer students and funding must adhere to state guidelines and testing standards for those students accepted. Also, no additional tuition can be charged to the transfer student’s family. There was a concern that money diverted to them would undermine the public education system. The reality is, in these unaccredited districts, public education has consistently failed, in St. Louis for over 17 years. The state has thrown hundreds of millions of dollars at the problem with only worsening results. We have tried charter schools, some of which repeatedly have lower scores than the public schools they were supposed to provide an alternative for. The state has taken over failed school districts with only frustrating results. A shocking 40% of our prison population comes from three unaccredited school districts. The children in these unaccredited districts are being condemned to a perpetual like of hardship. I have never supported vouchers or direct payments from public to private education, but now I make an exceptions for those students in unaccredited districts.
A noncontroversial part of the bill gives, teachers who, next to parents, are some of the most important influences on out children’s future, a pay raise.
I voted for this bill, and now it goes back to the Senate to be approved.
This week HB 2238 (CBD Oil) was Truly Agreed and Finally Passed. This bill will make CBD Oil available to Missourians battling epilepsy, only after every other option has been exhausted. CBD Oil is derived from a select strain of cannabis (hemp) plants. This strain of plants has only 0.03% of the THC of the average cannabis plant (it cannot make anyone “high”). CBD Oil has actually been used for decades around the world, but has been banned from even clinical studies by the feds due to the potential political fallout. Missouri will strictly regulate the production and use of CBD Oil. The State Health Department of Agriculture will be in charge with regulating the plants and extracting the oil. The State is partnering with a non-profit group to sell the oil at cost to families who have been approved by a neurologist. I voted for this bill.
SB 510 (Unemployment Benefits) was also Truly Agreed and Finally Passed this week. This bill changes the definition of “misconduct” for which an employee may be disqualified from unemployment benefits from including a wanton or willful disregard of the employer’s interest and a disregard of behavior the employer has the right to expect to a knowing disregard of that interest and a knowing violation of the standards the employer expects. Under this act, a violation of an employer’s rule is misconduct unless the employee demonstrates that he or she did not know and could not reasonably know the requirement, the rule is unlawful, or it is not fairly consistently enforced. Misconduct also includes a violation of a no-call, no-show policy, chronic absenteeism, tardiness, unapproved absences following a written warning, and a knowing violation of a state standard or regulation by an employee of a licensed employer which would case the employer to be sanctioned. The misconduct standard will apply when the conduct is connected to work whether or not it occurs at the workplace or during work hours. Currently, employees are disqualified from benefits if they voluntarily leave work without good cause. This bill defines “good cause” as that which would compel a reasonable employee to cease working or which would require separation from work due to illness or disability.
SB 523 was Truly Agreed and Finally Passed this week. This bill will prohibit school districts from requiring a student to use an identification device that uses radio frequency identification technology to identify the student, transmit information regarding the student, or monitor or track the location of a student.
SB 694 (Payday Loans) was Truly Agreed and Finally Passed. Currently, payday lenders are required to pay an annual licensing fee of $300 per location, this bill increases that amount to $500 per location. Payday lenders will be required to post the fee in terms of dollars charged per $100 loaned in a visible location. Borrowers may pay outstanding loans by means of an extended payment plan (EPP) with the following conditions: 1) borrowers may not be eligible to enter into more than one such plan in a 12 month period with an individual lender, 2) borrowers shall agree in a signed written agreement to repay the amount in 4 equal installments or less over an aggregate term of 60 days or less if the borrower receives bi-monthly paychecks or an aggregate term of 120 days or less if the borrower receives monthly paychecks, 3) there will be no prepayment penalties, 4) another loan may not be extended to the borrower by the lender until the EPP is paid in full, 5) the lender shall post a notice stating that the borrower may enter into such an agreement and that the lender maintains literature at the counter describing the terms and conditions of the plans, and 6) the borrower shall enter into the agreement on the day before the due date of the loan by signing an amendment to the original agreement reflecting the new payment schedule.
All these bills have been sent to the Governor to be signed. On Thursday, the Governor vetoed SB 509 (Income Tax). SB 509 will now be sent back to the General Assembly to either override the veto or let the veto stand.