JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – Later this week, the Missouri Senate will be debating a “Parents’ Bill of Rights,” requiring districts to post what they are teaching online.
The legislation that senators will be discussing includes provisions aimed at addressing and changing the curriculum in public schools. Teachers would be prohibited from teaching critical race theory or adding their own opinion or belief regarding history and race.
During the Missouri Teachers Association’s (MSTA) annual Capitol Day, the organization that represents more than half of the state’s educator workforce spoke against the bill.
“That’s going to hurt you guys because you’re going to spend your time trying to defend what you’re teaching as opposed to actually preparing and doing the teaching,” Mike Wood from MSTA told the rotunda full of more than 100 educators.
Senate Bills 4, 42, and 89 would allow parents to inject themselves into their student’s education, better known as the Parents’ Bill of Rights. Under this provision, the state’s education department would start an accountability portal where districts would be required to make materials used in curriculum public online.
“The problem with the “Parents’ Bill of Rights,” as it is drafted right now, is every school district must submit their curriculum but we’re not sure what curriculum really means,” Wood said. “Is that the standard? Is that each lesson? Is that the source material? “Is that your syllabus from your class?”
St. Louis Democratic Sen. Doug Beck told the teachers at the rally that this legislation will take away their ability to teach.
“There are so many other things out there that are coming after our teachers and at a time when we have a critical shortage of teachers, we can’t let this happen,” Beck said.
Beck said he agrees with the governor’s budget proposals for schools like fully funding the transportation formula and the K-12 foundation formula. Gov. Mike Parson is also asking the General Assembly to spend $250 million to create an education stabilization fund, fund the Career Ladder Program which is a way for experienced teachers who help with extracurricular activities to receive a raise and put money towards the Teacher Baseline Salary Grant to bring starting pay up to $38,000.
“I think public education is not a partisan issue and if we make it a partisan issue, then there is going to be trouble for our state,” Beck said. “There will be trouble for our kids moving forward.”
But he did say he’s concerned about what’s coming down the pipe this session regarding education.
“This year, I see a whole lot different,” Beck said. “The majority of what we are talking about today would be detrimental to public education.”
SB 4, 42 and 89 would also require the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) to create a “patriotic and civics training program.” Teachers who complete the training would receive a $3,000 bonus. The bill would also prohibit schools from telling teachers to “personally adopt, adhere to, or profess a position or viewpoint” that would espouse beliefs on one race or ethnicity. If violated, districts could be held liable through legal action.
“I think it’s a little overreach and what’s going to happen is, it’s going to come in and fall on your lap because the penalty provision they put in here are severe to school districts and districts are going to make sure they submit more than enough information to make sure they are not involved in a lawsuit that hurts their state aid,” Wood said.
That bill is expected to be debated in debate in the upper chamber Wednesday.
Another piece of legislation that is making its way through the upper chamber, school choice. Senate Bill 5 passed out of the Senate education committee Tuesday morning. It would allow students starting in kindergarten through their senior year of high school to transfer to a school outside the district he or she lives in, and the funding would follow them.
“The drip, drip, drip of students leaving districts and the resources that go along with them will be a huge detriment to those communities and to the students that get left behind in the school districts where the students have left,” Wood said.
The legislation would not require school districts to opt into the “Public School Open Enrollment Act,” but if they do, students could transfer to a new district if approved. If passed by the General Assembly and signed by the governor, it would require student-athletes who transfer to sit out a year before being able to participate.
DESE said earlier this month there are more than 3,000 teachers who are inappropriately certified. The department said that means there are educators who are teaching in a content area where they are not certified. There are also more than 140 districts in the state who have implemented four-day weeks for this school year for teacher recruitment and retention. This teacher shortage crisis is why the governor told teachers at the rally; education needs to be a priority.
“If I want to change society, if I want to change health care, if I want to change crime, if I want to change the workforce of tomorrow, it’s going to be because of you and me working together,” Parson said. “I can’t do it by myself, but I have to make sure every kid gets an education.”