The 2018 legislative session is officially underway, and I am honored to continue serving the citizens of the 3rd Senatorial District.
In addition to working on several committees, I am privileged to serve as the Chairman of the Education committee. As always, my goal is to prepare Missouri’s kids for the future and ensure they receive the education they need to be successful.
The appointment process for the State Board of Education was created to be insulated from political whims; however, the recent appointments to the Board are very concerning. The interim appointees were on the job for a short period of time with one making a decision minutes after being sworn in. They could not possibly have reached an understanding of the strides the department has made to improve student performance, much less understand the ramifications of firing a commissioner who is well liked and respected across the state. Additionally, this decision was based on old data collected in 2015, before the commissioner had been appointed to the position.
With this in mind, I have filed SB 794 which would require the Governor to inform the Missouri Senate, in writing, of any appointments to state boards or commissions made while the General Assembly is not in session. After appointment and notification, the Governor will also be prohibited from withdrawing or rescinding the appointment, except in the case of charges of malfeasance, misfeasance or nonfeasance. Additionally, five members who have been confirmed by the Senate must be present to establish a quorum, and no official actions may be taken unless a majority of the Board, all of whom have received the advice and consent of the Senate, vote therefor. This bill addresses issues with the State Board of Education while also ensuring the same standards apply to other state oversight boards.
I have also filed SB 576 which changes the Missouri Virtual Instruction Program (MOVIP) to the Missouri Course Access and Virtual School Program. This will allow any eligible student to enroll in program courses of their choice to be paid by the school district or charter school. This act expands access to online courses for students across Missouri and provides opportunities for enrichment that are unavailable in their individual districts.
Finally, SB 577 provides that community colleges may grant baccalaureate degrees if authorized by the Coordinating Board for Higher education. The West Plains Campus of Missouri State University and the State Technical College of Missouri may also offer baccalaureate degrees if authorized by the Coordinating Board. An institution may also be authorized to offer non-research doctoral degrees in allied health professions. Finally, the boards of state colleges and state teachers colleges have the power and authority to confer degrees in engineering only in collaboration with the University of Missouri if the collaborative agreement is approved by the governing board of each institution.
These three bills will move Missouri forward into providing access to relevant and high-quality education opportunities to students throughout Missouri. I am passionate about keeping our students at the top of the priority list and ensuring that K-12 and higher education remain free from political maneuvering.
As always, I am blessed to work with a talented and hard-working staff. Dan Hutton and Karen Jacquin are instrumental in my ability to serve the 3rd District to the best of my ability, and I am happy to have them working with me again in 2018. This year we also welcome Heather Kopp, our new intern! Heather, originally from Odessa, is a junior at Truman State University studying History and Political Science. I am honored to continue representing the citizens of Missouri’s 3rd Senatorial District. As we progress through the session, please know I value your input and I invite you to visit my Capitol office if you are ever in the Jefferson City area.