Skip to Content

Missouri Legislature passes historic education reform package

Share To Your Social Network

In what is being touted as a significant victory for education in Missouri, the state’s General Assembly has passed SB 727 and HB 2287, a set of comprehensive education reform bills aimed at improving elementary and secondary education statewide. These bipartisan bills, both spearheaded in the House by State Representative Phil Christofanelli, mark a substantial advancement in educational opportunities for Missouri students.

On Thursday, April 18, SB 727 was passed by the House with a vote of 82-69. The bill introduces several key initiatives to enhance Missouri’s education system. These include the expansion of the Missouri Empowerment Scholarship Accounts Program, which now triples in size, updates to minimum school term requirements, and efforts to enhance literacy among elementary students through the Elementary Literacy Fund. The legislation supports the adoption of a five-day school week and broadens homeschooling options, providing greater flexibility for families and students. Additionally, it increases the maximum amount of tax credits for the Missouri Empowerment Scholarship program, focuses on scholarships for low-income students and those with learning disabilities, and doubles small school grants to support underserved institutions.

Moreover, SB 727 significantly boosts funding for early childhood education, establishing a robust foundation for future generations. It also prioritizes teacher welfare by raising starting salaries from $25,000 to $40,000, introducing career ladder programs, and offering flexible incentives to attract and retain top teaching talent nationwide. The bill also addresses teacher certification, school board vacancies, and suicide prevention, illustrating a comprehensive approach to educational reform.

“Every child in Missouri deserves access to a high-quality education tailored to their needs,” stated Christofanelli. “By expanding the ESA program, we are reinforcing our commitment to Missouri’s families and their right to educational freedom. This is a triumph for parents seeking more control over their children’s education and for students who will now have more opportunities to reach their potential.”

State Rep. Brad Pollitt, Chair of the House Committee on Elementary and Secondary Education, commented, “This legislation supports our public schools financially while simultaneously providing families more educational choices. Prioritizing the Missouri Empowerment Scholarships for children needing special educational services will greatly assist families and schools.”

HB 2287 clarifies language from the 2022 legislation that established Missouri’s Course Access and Virtual School Program. It covers aspects such as calculating average daily attendance for full-time virtual students, state aid provision to host districts, statewide open enrollment, establishing enrollment policies, accommodating students with disabilities through individualized education programs, and simplifying the enrollment process for parents or guardians. The bill also allows host districts to contract with providers for necessary virtual education services.

The Missouri Senate expanded the legislation to include provisions for cleanup and clarification measures associated with SB 727. These changes include reinstating the transportation trigger and linking funding for K-12 tax-credit scholarships to state aid for public schools’ transportation. The bill also exempts the Warsaw School District from the four-day school week and removes provisions related to private school certification of teachers.

“The passage of these bills is a major milestone in our efforts to strengthen Missouri’s education system for all students,” said House Speaker Dean Plocher. “By focusing on initiatives that support student success and teacher excellence, and by improving the recruitment and retention of frontline teachers through salary increases, we are investing in the prosperity of our communities and the well-being of our children.”

Representative Ed Lewis added, “Included in SB727 was my Teacher Recruitment and Retention scholarship bill and many other beneficial aspects for public education, as well as homeschool children. This bill addresses concerns from our homeschool community about potential infringements on their 2nd Amendment rights by including them in the private school scholarship program. By passing HB 2287 along with SB 727, we safeguard our homeschool educators’ constitutional rights.”

With approval from both chambers of the Missouri Legislature, SB 727 and HB 2287 are set to significantly impact the state’s educational landscape. The bills now await the governor’s signature to become law.

Share To Your Social Network