When the Missouri Legislature returns from spring break next week, it will be the House’s turn to review a wide-ranging education package.

Among other things, the plan would restrict four-day school weeks. Senate Bill 727 would require districts with more than 30,000 residents to hold school five days a week, unless a majority of the district’s voters back a shortened week.

Missouri began allowing districts to move to the four-day model back in 2011. Since then, roughly 170 of Missouri’s more than 500 school districts operate four days a week.

Independence School District Superintendent Dale Herl said restricting the four-day school weeks was not brought up until Independence discussed and ultimately moved to a shortened school week.

“This is something that takes away local control from a locally elected school board. So that’s very concerning to me. It’s bothersome that this bill is just targeting large school districts that try to do this. And, you know, large school districts have the same issues that smaller ones have. We just have more kids,” Herl told Missourinet.

His district has nearly 15,000 pre-K through 12 students. He said since moving to a four-day school week, recruitment and retention has increased.

“Our teacher applications are up more than 360% compared to where they were pre-four-day school week. I can just go back to last year, you know, we couldn’t find enough bus drivers. So, we were short, typically 11 to 15 routes every day. Right now, we have drivers in training. If they all end up getting certified, we’ll actually be plus one on bus drivers. So, we’ve seen so many more applications not only for teachers but for classified individuals as well. For the first time in years, we have all of our nursing positions filled,” said Herl.

If the Missouri Legislature ends up getting the bill across the finish line this year, Herl said he believes a majority of voters would support the district operating four days a week.

“And my analysis is anecdotal as well. Since we started the four-day school week this year, once the year started and parents got to see what it was like, I’ve only received one negative email about the four-day school week,” he said. “The bigger issue is, you know, everyone gets to vote. And so, often you have people that don’t have kids in school that they say, you know, ‘When I went to school, you know, we went five days a week, or my kids went five days a week.’ So it’s individuals who don’t even have a vested interest in what it looks like right now. That’s the piece that I would be concerned about.”

The four-day school weeks have been used by rural districts to compete with the larger districts. When Missourinet asked Herl if applications are coming from people working in rural districts, here’s what he said:

“People who are applying, honestly, they’re coming in from everywhere. Young adults who are coming right out of college. Certainly, we’ve been able to hire much more veteran staff the past two years. So, last year once it was announced that we were moving to a four-day school week, application shot up significantly. So, the type of individual that we’re hiring is certainly much more veteran than what we saw in the past,” he said.

The education bill would provide extra state funding to schools who use the five-day model and that extra funding would only be allowed to increase teacher salaries.

“I have looked at the bill briefly with the incentives. But, you know, here’s the reality of the four-day school week, individuals, teachers, classified folks, they’re looking for the best work life balance that they can have. I’m not sure that the incentives would be enough to continue to attract people to the profession,” Herl said.

The Senate bill would also:

*Boost the amount of state funding dedicated to tax credits for those who donate to private K-12 school scholarships. The current $50 million annually in state funding would increase to $75 million annually.

*Expand eligibility statewide for students to access these scholarships.

*Expand charter schools to Boone County.

*Add to the Career Ladder program, which pays teachers more money to complete additional work.

*Add pathways to teaching certifications.

*Allow school districts to pay teachers more who fill roles in “hard-to-staff” schools and areas.

*Increase Missouri’s minimum teacher salary to $40,000 for the 2025-26 school year and in all subsequent school years. The current minimum is $25,000.

*Increase Missouri’s minimum teacher salary to at least $46,000 for teachers who have master’s degrees and at least 10 years experience in the field for the 2025-26 school year and increasing to $48,000 by 2027-28.

*Add more teacher recruitment and retention scholarships.

*Change the calculations for school aid so that the school’s attendance and enrollment would be considered in the funding formula.

For more information on Senate Bill 727, click here.

Copyright © 2024 · Missourinet