Legislation changes, proposed bills will affect school districts

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Massey: ‘District has to be ready for changes that may occur’

Wheaton School District Superintendent Lance Massey attended two different state legislature meetings recently in Springfield and Webb City, learning about a few topics that stuck out to him regarding proposed state laws.

“One thing that will actually take effect [in 2019] is the way that we count school days,” Massey said. “Currently, it is a combination of hours and days, and it will be moving to an hours-only system.”

According to Massey, that counts the required amount of time that the students attend school.

“For example, currently schools have to go until noon or 1 p.m. to make the day count as a school day if it starts snowing,” Massey said. “[In 2019], if school is in session at 8 a.m., and it starts snowing so we feel we need to dismiss at 10 a.m., that will still get to count as two hours.”

Massey said every school district has to go a minimum of 1,044 hours.

“That scenario changes some things on how school districts are working on their calendars for [in 2019],” Massey said.

Massey said the pre-school classes, since they are only half-day programs in the morning and in the afternoon, only have to meet half of those hours a year, which is 522 hours.

“In order for a district to be eligible for pre-school state funding, they have to meet that state requirement of hours,” Massey said. “There are some challenges school districts will have to face, like scheduling issues.”

According to Massey, another hot topic was proposed legislation on a pre-filed bill of retaining students that are not reading at their grade levels.

“That bill was filed last year,” Massey said. “It ultimately did not end up passing.”

Massey said the legislator that filed that bill was at the Webb City meeting, and he said that he had pre-filed that bill again.

“It isn’t official yet, but I think something that districts need to keep an eye on are how it looks and what the long term effects are,” Massey said. “Basically, from my understanding, the bill proposes that, for example, a student in third grade has to be reading at a third-grade level before they can move on to fourth grade.”

According to Massey, the state senator had indicated that he was hoping there would be certain remediation’s that would take place if a student wasn’t reading at his or her reading level.

“All of those things are good,” Massey said. “However, in school business we get frustrated at times from what I refer to as ‘unfunded mandates.’”

Massey said if a child isn’t reading at a certain level, the school offers other development tools to help the child get to the right reading level, but it is expected to be done with the same dollars that were received this year.

“Let’s allocate new dollars that allow the school to solve those problems,” Massey said. “I want to make sure that our board continues to do research, and that they rely on me to help do some of that research.

“I always like our board to be active with state legislators to be able to bring concerns and support.”

Massey said he has had the opportunity to listen to Gov. Mike Parson on a couple of occasions.

“Workforce development and college and career readiness have been some topics that will be some of his priorities for the next two years,” Massey said. “I think that bodes well for public schools, and especially for the vocational type programs.”

According to Massey, since Parson is very supportive of the workforce development, the schools have to be mindful and preparing students for those changes.

“If the Governor is pushing workforce development, he needs to have party support behind him to create legislation that enhances those things,” Massey said. “We as a school district have to be flexible to be ready for changes that may occur in lines of workforce development.”

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