Legislative session opens
For the first time in many years, Republicans will be in control of the Missouri House, Senate and Governor’s Office as the General Assembly begins its 2017 session on January 4. That means leaders of the House and Senate may be more aggressive in pushing an education reform agenda they were hesitant to advance in recent years due to the threat of a veto from the governor. That agenda could include open enrollment, voucher plans that would provide tax money to support private schools, and the expansion of charter schools in the state.
MSBA Associate Executive Director for Advocacy Mike Reid says it’s a new environment in Jefferson City. He says Governor-Elect Eric Greitens did not discuss education policy a great deal during the campaign but there are some indications about what he may support. “He apparently believes in parental choice and the expansion of charter schools,” says Reid. He adds other proposals likely to be considered by lawmakers include school report cards and changes to the teacher tenure law.
One of the first issues likely to face the new governor is a revenue shortfall during the current fiscal year that may require budget withholdings of $200 million to $300 million. Some of that money may come from K-12 funding. Reid says lagging state revenue will make it challenging for lawmakers to fully fund the foundation formula and other education programs during the next fiscal year.
Reid urges MSBA members to contact legislators now, before the legislative session starts, to share concerns about bills likely to be considered and to express priorities for the legislative session that could benefit their local school district.