A newly signed law designed to protect religious expression in Missouri’s public schools reinforces a constitutional amendment passed two years ago, but some say that it could lead to fewer opportunities for students to express their religious views.
The law, HB1303, was signed last week by Gov. Jay Nixon. Dubbed the “Missouri Student Religious Liberties Act,” it says that:
The chamber commissioned the study, which was conducted by the Colorado-based Evergreen Education Group. Chamber President and CEO Dan Mehan says although online learning options are available in the Show-Me State, most require tuition, while those that don’t are limited geographically.
In Missouri, as in most states, public schools are administered by local school boards. The boundaries of school districts are drawn in accordance with state law. Schools are funded primarily through local property taxes. Districts with higher per capita incomes tend to have better schools. The districts most in danger of losing their accreditation tend to be those with lower per capita incomes.
With less than two months left in this year’s legislative session, House Republicans still haven’t scheduled a wide-ranging public school bill for debate. It would create tax credit scholarships that would pay for students to transfer from unaccredited schools to adjacent better-performing schools, and expand charter schools beyond St. Louis and Kansas City.
Majority Floor Leader Tim Jones admits there are wide differences of opinion on the bill, even among Republicans.
The Missouri Senate has passed a funding plan for public schools as it begins debate on a $23 billion proposed budget.
A Senate budget bill approved Wednesday would provide schools $3 billion in basic aid next year - the same amount as this year but an estimated $179 million less than called for under the school funding formula.
Legislators and Gov. Jay Nixon say the state cannot afford to pay schools the full amount they are due.
Good morning! Here are a few of today's starting headlines:
Missouri lawmakers are preparing to start redrawing the state's congressional districts. Officials said Monday they expect to get more detailed population data from the U.S. Census Bureau this week. Missouri is losing one of its nine congressional districts, based on the statewide population figures released earlier. The new details of where people are living will hep the Legislature as it draws the eight new districts. The chairmen of the House and Senate redistricting committees are planning to hold public hearings in several places around Missouri. They hope to complete the hearings in the next couple of weeks and will begin developing new congressional maps after that.
The Missouri House is to begin debate soon on a plan to use $189 million of additional federal stimulus money for public schools. The House plan would use some of that money to offset shortfalls in casino tax revenues that were to go to schools. But most of the additional federal money would be used to offset state revenues already budgeted for schools this year - allowing the state money to be saved and distributed to schools next year. House Majority Leader Tim Jones said the chamber could debate the legislation as soon as Tuesday. The House plan would maintain a more steady funding stream for schools than one originally proposed by Gov. Jay Nixon. His plan would have boosted school funding this year and cut it next year.
According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the Humane Society of Missouri has received custody of 74 dogs from a licensed breeder after investigators found the dogs malnourished and living in their own waste. State investigators found the Collies and Bichon Frises living in crates in a double-wide trailer on the breeder's Stone County property in southwest Missouri. One dog had to euthanized. The Post-Dispatch reports that examinations found several of the dogs suffered from dehydration, malnutrition, ear and respiratory infections, as well as internal parasites.