Gov. Mike Parson has given his signature of approval to an education package that would expand tax credits for private schooling, allow Boone County to open charter schools, and restrict four-day school weeks, among other things. The plan 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.

Sen. Andrew Koenig, R-Manchester, the bill’s sponsor, explained that it also includes an expansion of access to private schooling with taxpayer money.

“There’s some things in there that, you know, people don’t like, maybe the price tag, but then also we fund public schools at a higher rate and then also providing that school choice,” he said. “I think school choice is important to provide options for parents. The vast majority of studies out there show that academic outcomes improve when you provide options to parents.”

House Minority Leader Crystal Quade, D-Springfield, said “extreme Missouri Republicans are stealing money from public education to give to private institutions.”

“While the voucher expansion is essentially guaranteed, the promises to public schools depend on additional funding the state isn’t expected to have and future lawmakers aren’t required to provide,” she said.

One provision increases the minimum teacher salary from $25,000 to $40,000 annually. According to Rep. Phil Christofanelli, R-St. Peters, who took up the measure in the House of Representatives, school districts are expected to spend $40,000 per teacher on salary.

“If they do not, there are consequences built into existing statute for not appropriating that amount, but in order to help schools fund this, we have two different proposals that are built into the statute,” he said.

Regarding salaries, the legislation increases salaries for teachers with a master’s degree and 10+ years’ experience to a minimum of $48,000 per year by 2027. It also increases all teacher salaries by the January Consumer Price Index report, with a cap of 3% annually.

“They’re going to have more resources to work with in order to prioritize teacher pay, but we’re also going to create in statute, a grant fund that the legislature can put general revenue dollars into in order to shore up school districts that are struggling to meet that teacher pay floor,” explained Christofanelli.

Another provision in the controversial education package would change how state aid to schools is calculated by including enrollment and attendance into the formula used to fund education.

“Whether that child shows up every single day or whether they take a day off, that school still has to provide bussing,” said Koenig. “They have to provide a teacher, a desk. They have to provide, they really don’t save any costs by that child not showing up that one day and so paying school districts based on enrollment, how many students they have enrolled in the school, does make sense.”

Senate Bill 727, and a similar piece of legislation that was also signed into law, House Bill 2287, contains provisions related to several other subjects, including:

  • Increases state funding for early childhood education programs.
  • Increases the funding limit and expands access for Missouri’s Empowerment Scholarship Accounts.
  • Establishes the Elementary Literacy Fund.
  • Increases the small school grant funding program from $15 million to $30 million per year.
  • Protects retirement benefits for educators who continue teaching after retirement.
  • Establishes the Teacher Recruitment and Retention State Scholarship Program.

The estimated price tag of the entire package is more than $450 million a year.

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