Problems with SB 727

Problems with SB 727

don't mess with our kids!

SB 727 is stirring a lot of discussions and controversy across Missouri.  Why?  Because most of us are passionate about our kids.  We may not take the time and use the energy to fight for things like water rights or to protect Missouri's constitution, but most of us will stand up when we feel are kids are being directly attacked.   

Our kids ARE being attacked on all fronts.  The attacks on our children - the children of the United States, the children of Missouri - are relentless and range from the war on their identities & their minds, their physical safety, their spirits and all that includes their education.   

A child's education now consumes the vast majority of their lives after age 5 and the influence of those hours, the curriculum, the teachers and teacher training, the counselors and their training, the culture at the schools, etc. is something that literally shapes their attitudes, beliefs and behaviors for their lifetime.   It helps to mold who they are and who they become.

Missouri's schools are generally not doing well with academic performance and the struggle is overwhelming in regard to the social and cultural issues.

the system needs a big change

Everyone agrees we need a change in policy.  But what and how?   That is the big question that causes all the political antics.   The democrats want to fund more programs for the schools and the republicans say the school system is the problem but they continue to empower DESE with even more reach and authority.  DESE is the one driving the schools so where's the logic in that?

It's a real problem.  

The Missouri Senate has just passed an education omnibus bill, SB 727 sponsored by Senator Andrew Koenig, that includes several changes to Missouri's education system.  If you listen to the legislators talk about it, they'll say how they are proud of all the hard work they've done to get a great education bill out of the senate chamber with wonderful things for students, teacher and families alike.

More money will flow into the hands of select families through a voucher system, free books for kids, higher salaries for teachers and so much more.   But, is that the whole story?

the devil's in the details

This is ALOT to unpack and it can't be done well in one blog article, but because I've received questions about SB 727, I'm going to share my thoughts without getting into the weeds too much.  However, there are some very important details you need to understand in order to really grasp some of the problems with this piece of legislation.  

The following is a short list of the reasons I oppose the bill.

  • This bill is unconstitutional now.   It started out as a 12 page bill sponsored by Senator Andrew Koenig with a title that read, " enact ...four new sections relating to educational scholarships."  The bill is now 167 pages long with a title that reads, " enact...forty-four new sections relating to elementary and secondary education with penalty provisions and an effective date for certain sections."   Opening up this very specific title to a very broad one and putting unrelated topics under one bill is unconstitutional.  That's a no go.    See the Missouri Constitution, Article 3 Section 23.

The original bill included only sections on Education Scholarship Account Programs in the four sections, shown above. 

The perfected version, title seen above, that passed in the senate included 44 new sections under the subjects:

    1. Education Scholarship Accounts Programs
    2. Minimum school term
    3. Charter school (expansion)
    4. Literacy of elementary school students
    5. Missouri course access and virtual school program
    6. Family Paced Education Schools 
    7. School board vacancies
    8. Weighted average daily attendance
    9. Early childhood education programs operated by school districts and charter schools
    10. Small schools grant
    11. Minimum teachers salary
    12. Compulsory school attendance
    13. School attendance officers
    14. Recovery high schools
    15. Teacher certification
    16. Hard-to-staff schools and subject areas
    17. Teacher education programs
    18. Career ladder
    19. Working after retirement
    20. Suicide prevention in grades 7-12
    21. Teacher recruitment scholarship program
  • The ESA Program.   This one point deserves an entire blog series in and of itself.  I'll keep my issues with the ESA short and to the point here and only pertaining to this bill rather than the concept of ESAs and whether or not I agree with them.

    • Expanded qualified students 
      • Free/reduced lunch kids who live in unaccredited & provisionally accredited schools would be eligible.  This is a potential HUGE expansion when you consider there are approximately 150 schools that are on the verge of being provisionally accredited. 
      • Students whose households do not exceed 300% of the free/reduced lunch standard are eligible. This is a household income of around $110,000.  These are not necessarily  "impoverished" households.

    • Added another Educational Assistance Organization (EAO) which totals 7.  Inserting non-profits into our State law is a huge problem, one of which is an inability to sunshine the non-profit for information regarding these funds and programs.  These EAOs were chosen and provided for before the original bill was passed in '21.  They are choosing winners & losers.

    • Participating students are required to take the MAP or a norm-referenced test that provide for "value-added assessment" which is a measure of teacher performance.  This is a huge issue as it might pertain to FPEs and private schools.  It was already in the statute and needs to be scrutinized, especially considering DESE is going to be able to promulgate more rules.  

    • DESE is now inserted multiple times and specifically charged with collaborating on rules changes.  This is a HUGE problem! 

    • Kids who are non-English speaking, free/reduced lunch and IEP have the potential to stack increased scholarship amounts based on those criteria.  There is nothing in the statute that prohibits this.  This could result in a student receiving 460% of the state adequacy target.  That is upwards of $20,000/year or more, which would be a huge incentive for families with non-English speaking kids to be here.  Considering our souther border problem, this is a concern.
Note:  Regarding the ESA program, to understand the problems fully you have to take into account the rules in addition to the statute.  The State Treasurer's Office has written rules along with a parent handbook that outlines and details how the program functions.  For example, those rules include background checks for anyone over 18 living in the home of a homeschool family who participates.  Now DESE will be collaborating on those rules and policies as well.  This is an open door to so many more problems and it makes no sense.  Why would you want DESE to have ANY influence in a program designed to get kids out of public school?

  • Expanded charter schools to Boone County.  Boone County (Caleb Rowden's district) got charter schools but they don't have to follow all the same rules as the rest.  
Note:  There are significant issues and reasons as to why I feel charters are NOT what Missouri needs.  Charter in Missouri are not really fairing any better than our public schools and they are not required to follow all the same rules as public.  Many, if not all, in Missouri are woke leftist schools funded by our tax dollars.

  • Elementary Literacy Fund.   Original language sponsored by Senator Karla May (Democrat)
    • The State will now be mailing student selected books into the homes of K-5 graders.  Again, this program will be administered by a non-profit and there will be no sunshining of the details of the program, the books we are providing or how it is operating.  There is data being collected from these homes and weekly contact being made.  The selection of the administering non-profit will be an integral part of the program.  

  • Homeschool definition changed to include enrollment.  The Family Paced Education school was created and the homeschool definition changed to exclude FPEs.   The enrollment language was also slightly changed.  Although the term enrollment had been used in previous language, it was located in a different paragraph that had to do with attendance - not enrollment.  The addition of the word "homeschool" to the enrollment paragraph is curious and makes one wonder why the change needed to be made.  Maybe it's nothing.  But if it's nothing, I prefer it go back to its original form.

  • Removal of records review by prosecuting attorney.  The following was removed from the original language, "Home school education enforcement and records pursuant to this section, and sections 210.167 and 211.031, shall be subject to review only by the local prosecuting attorney."    If the definition of FPE creates two "silos" for students learning at home, there is no need to completely remove the language that says the ONLY review of homeschool records will be done by the prosecuting attorney.  This could be an open door to homeschool records being reviewed by other offices.  The FPE schools are subject to review at any time by administrators of the program, but this would not require a change to the homeschool records review language.  

  • Private school teacher certification.    
    • Considering that DESE will be promulgating more rules around the ESA, you can expect them to write a rule saying participating private schools will be required to hire teachers certified through their program.  
    • The certification will be created by another non-profit.  Who will that be and what will they be training our private school teachers to do?  We probably won't be able to find out due to the inability of sunshining the non-profit.

the vote & the status

This bill was perfected in the senate with the following vote and is now waiting to be referred to the education committee in the House.   It's an interesting vote, because the final vote did not look exactly like this.  Two of the republicans who voted No on perfection were absent for the final TRAP vote.  Gannon, Justin Brown and Hough didn't come to take the final vote.  That's intentional, so to get a really clear picture of who supported what it's the perfection vote you need to pay attention to in this case.  No changes can be made to the bill after perfection.

Another interesting thing to note was that in this case, even though this bill had democrat language in it and multiple things the democrats supported, including Senator Karla May's book program - they didn't need to vote yes.  There were enough Republican yes votes to pass what they wanted to get accomplished. 

The constitutionally correct and conservative vote on this bill was NO.   

Ben Brown
Thompson Rehder 

NOs (Democrats plus Gannon, Justin Brown, & Moon)
Justin Brown

Absent With Leave - Rick Brattin who was attending his daughter's wedding.

take action

1.  Pray and add the Call to the Capitol on April 13th to your calendar!  Consider yourself personally invited to come pray, worship and gather with other like minded believers who are fed up with the attacks on our children.  

We know the only true answers and strategies to push back darkness come from the Lord, so please consider coming and joining with hundreds of other Missouri parents to pray & hold the line for the next generation.  I'll be there & I'd love to see you!

2.  Call your Missouri representative and ask that he/she vote NO on SB 727 when given the opportunity.  The bill isn't clean and I can't imagine the House will clean it up entirely.  Even if they do, it's unconstitutional and for that reason alone the correct vote is NO.

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