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Everything listed under: A+ Program

  • Missouri Legislature 2015 Wrap-Up Post

     

    The First Regular Session of the 98th Missouri General Assembly ended on May 15th. During the 4.5-month-long session, a number of bills affecting Missouri public schools were the subjects of debate. From budgets to bullying to school transfer law, here’s a summary of the biggest education-related bills of the session.

    State Budget Approval & the Foundation Formula
    Congress passed the state’s Fiscal Year 2016 operating budget. The budget, which will go into effect July 1st, includes an $84 million increase in funding for the Foundation Formula. Despite the increase, the Formula remains under-funded by more than $440 million.

    Learn more: Understanding the Missouri Foundation Formula

    Supplemental Budget Approval
    The state’s supplemental budget bill, which helps cover unexpected expenses in the current year, was passed during the legislative session. The bill allocated $3.78 million to K-12 schools and $3.4 million to early childhood special education programs.

    A+ Funding for Illegal Immigrants
    Legislators passed a bill that will exclude illegal immigrants from qualifying for Missouri A+ Program scholarship funding. The bill was designed to ensure that residents have state scholarship funding priority. Opponents of the bill are concerned that students brought to the United States as children are being punished unfairly and prevented from achieving higher education goals. (Source)

    Learn more: Missouri’s A+ Program Benefits Thousands Each Year

    Higher Education Funding
    HB3 increases funding for Missouri’s public higher education institutions by $12 million. The bill was passed by the legislature and signed by the Governor.

    School Transfers
    Legislature passed a school transfer bill (HB42) that opponents hope will be vetoed by Governor Jay Nixon. The bill, which would expand charter and virtual schools in the state, would also affect accreditation and school transfer.

    Under the bill, individual schools — not entire school districts — would earn accreditation. Students would be able to transfer from a failing school to an accredited school in their home districts. If an accredited school doesn’t exist in the student’s district, the student could still transfer outside the district.

    Failing schools would still be required to pay tuition and transportation costs for transfer students. The bill placed no limits on the cost of tuition charged by receiving districts. (Source)

    Learn more: School Transfer: An Expensive Law for Struggling Schools

    Day Care Bill
    SB341, which was passed by the legislature and signed by the governor, requires day care centers to establish safe sleep policies and to disclose registration of unvaccinated children. The bill also establishes reporting procedures for juveniles with sexual behavior issues. (Source)

    Bullying
    A prominent anti-bullying bill didn’t survive the session. HB458 would have made school anti-bullying policy requirements stricter. The bill defined bullying and cyber bullying, and called for schools to play a more active role in suicide prevention. Many schools already have already enacted written anti-bullying policies on their own, but the bill would have legally required them to do so. (Source)

    Learn more: Bullying in Schools: How Adults Can Help

    A New President for the State Board of Education
    Unrelated to lawmaking, but coinciding with the legislative session, the State Board of Education elected a new president, Charlie Shields of St. Joseph, to replace former president Peter Herschend. Shields is the Chief Operating Officer at Truman Medical Centers, and served 20 years in the Missouri General Assembly. (Source)

    Missouri Parent is a free service for all Missouri parents and others who have an interest in public education. We aim to provide accurate and timely information on education funding and legislative issues that impact public education.

    To continue to learn about policies affecting your child’s Missouri public school education, bookmark Missouri Parent News and connect with Missouri Parent on Facebook and Twitter.


  • Four Big Wins for Public Schools in Missouri in 2014

     

     

    Thank you for helping us achieve some big successes this year on behalf of our state’s students. Here are four big wins for public schools in Missouri in 2014:

    We Fought For — and Won Back — Missouri A+ Schools Funding
    Funding for the Missouri A+ Schools Program was threatened this year. We shared information with you on what the A+ Program is and why it matters to our high school students. And when funding issues faced A+ we explained those, too.

    Thanks to you, the Missouri A+ Program has had most of its at-risk budget restored. You stood up for Missouri’s high school and college A+ scholarship students, affecting the education of more than 12,000 students. Thank you!

    We Defeated Amendment 3 (#MoNoOn3)
    Constitutional Amendment 3, which appeared on the November 4th General Election ballot, would have been detrimental to Missouri’s public schools. We shared what teachers had to say about Amendment 3, how Missouri’s educational associations felt about the amendment, and the many ways the amendment would have been bad for our kids.

    Thank you for going to the polls to defeat Amendment 3. At Missouri Parent, we advocate hard for the policies we believe are best for our students. Without voters like you — voters who go to the polls to make change happen — we wouldn’t have seen such remarkable success in 2014. Together, we stood strong: #MoNoOn3.

    Win Four Seats in the Missouri Legislature for Representatives Who Stood Strong Against Rex Sinquefield
    In August, four representatives who stood strong against Amendment 3 were up for re-election to the Missouri House. Those representatives were Paul Fitzwater (R - Potosi), Nate Walker (R - Kirksville), Jeff Messenger (R – Republic), and Lyle Rowland (R – Cedarcreek).

    The Missouri Club for Growth, a lobbying group funded in part by Rex Sinquefield, invested more than $600,000 in Fitzwater, Walker, Messenger, and Rowland’s opponents. (Source)

    Missouri’s voters did not let big dollar campaigns fool them, though: these four champions for public education won re-election to the Missouri House. Thank you for electing lawmakers who support public education.

    Secured the Highest Level of State Funding for K-12 Education in Missouri’s History
    While Missouri’s Foundation Formula remains painfully underfunded, Missouri did see higher levels of funding this year than ever before in public education. House Speaker Tim Jones says in this end-of-session press conference that funding for Missouri schools reached an all-time high:

    “We made sure that we provided historic levels of funding for K-12 education,” Speaker Jones said, “and also funded higher education at higher levels this year.” (Source)

    Thank you for your continued advocacy for public school in 2014. Parents, students, supporters and readers came together in 2014 to have a strong positive influence on students across the state. These four wins for public schools would never have been possible without you. Thank you!

    Keep learning more, advocating for Missouri’s K-12 students, and gaining insightful tips and information on raising kids who are successful in public schools: Bookmark the Missouri Parent Blog and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.



  • #MissouriMath Doesn’t Add Up

         

    The National Council of Teachers of Mathematics says that “the underpinnings of everyday life, such as making purchases, choosing insurance or health plans, and planning fore retirement, all require mathematical competence. (source)

    Mathematics is taught in Missouri’s K-12 schools and in its colleges and universities. From addition to calculus; statistics to econometrics, Missouri’s students take a wide range of math classes from kindergarten through college. Mathematical competence is emphasized in school, but it seems like the Missouri Legislature uses a different kind of math.

    In Missouri schools, basic math looks something like this:

    2 + 2 = 4

    But in the Missouri Capitol, math looks more like this:

    Tax Cut + Education Funding Needs = Budget Withholds & Program Cuts TWEET THIS

    This is what we call #Missouri Math.

    #MissouriMath is a different kind of math. It involves word problems, real world issues, and impact on real lives. In Jefferson City, math looks like this:

    · Struggling Schools + Underfunded Foundation Formula = Introduction of New Tax Breaks. TWEET THIS
    · #MissouriMath = Tax Cuts + Budget Restrictions = Impacts on Individual Students TWEET THIS
    · #MissouriMath means that legislators can offer tax breaks without accounting for the income gaps they’ll create in the General Revenue.

    And in #MissouriMath, those tax breaks = possible cuts to critical programs like the Missouri A+ Schools Program that have helped improve Missouri’s high school graduation rates, track at-risk students, and guide graduates toward appropriate community college and vocational school programs after high school graduation.

    When it comes to public policy, #MissouriMath looks like this:

    · #MissouriMath = The Passage of SB 509 = Individual Tax Cuts + (-Loss of Funding for Schools)
    · #MissouriMath = Teachers working hours they might never be paid for TWEET THIS
    · #Missouri Math = a $115 million increase the Foundation Formula = a Foundation Formula that’s still underfunded by nearly $500 million.

    #MissouriMath is satirical at times, especially where property taxed-based education funding that leaves poor urban and rural schools far behind the funding levels of their wealthier suburban counterparts is concerned.

    And unfortunately, #MissouriMath like this next equation are anything but satire:

    #MissouriMath = (+1.5% Missouri Lottery Revenue) + (-7.4% Decrease in Lottery Contributions to Public Schools) + (6x increase in Lottery advertising spending on things like these T.V. commercials promoting the Lottery’s commitment to public education)

    #MissouriMath doesn’t have to look like this—in fact, in our eyes, it should look something like this:

    #TheRightMissouriMath = A Fully Funded Foundation Formula TWEET THIS
    #TheRightMissouriMath = Investment in the Missouri A+ Schools Program TWEET THIS
    #TheRightMissouriMath = Giving Our Youngest Learners a Great Start TWEET THIS
    #TheRightMissouriMath = Money to Education not Transportation = Students Get Great Education in Home Districts

    If you’re like the many Missouri parents who rely on Missouri’s public schools to prepare your child for college and career, rally together with Missouri Parent to let Missouri lawmakers know that #MissouriMath doesn’t add up.

    To learn more about the funding and legislative issues facing public schools and impacting K-12 students in Missouri, bookmark the Missouri Parent Blog, like us on Facebook, and follow us on Twitter.

     

     

  • Missouri's A+ Program Benefits Thousands Each Year

     

     

    A potential budget cut facing the Missouri A+ Schools Program would directly affect approximately 15,000 Missouri college students beginning in Spring 2015. Learn more about the A+ Program, its history, and its funding today on the Missouri Parent Blog.

    The History of the A+ Program
    The Missouri A+ Program is a reimbursement-based scholarship program for graduating high school students that helps them pay for college tuition and general fees at participating public community colleges and vocational/technical schools.

    The program was established in 1993 as part of Senate Bill 380, which was also called The Outstanding Schools Act. When it began, the A+ Program was designed specifically to help those students who might otherwise not have attended college by helping them graduate high school and earn a two-year degree.

    The program had three primary goals:
    -To increase high school graduation rates
    -To develop more challenging high school curriculum
    -To prepare students to pursue an advanced education, high-wage employment, or both after high school graduation (source)

    Before the A+ Program was created, Missouri had a 75% high school graduation rate; 25% of high school students dropped out before receiving a degree. Last year, Missouri had the 8th highest graduation rate in America at 80.7%. (source)

    The A+ Program helped more than 12,000 students go to college last year, and it is anticipated to help nearly 15,000 students attend college next year. More students are enrolling in the A+ Program every year, and many of them truly need the assistance the program provides.

    Cassville High School’s A+ Program Sponsor Tyne Rabourn told the Cassville Democrat that her district has “a few students that might have to stop going to school” if A+ funds are reduced. (source)

    What Factors Impact A+ Funding?
    The amount of money received by A+ students varies from student to student because A+ reimbursements are only applied after all of each student’s available non-loan federal assistance money has been applied to his or her account. (source).

    Federal assistance impacts the amount of A+ funding individual students receive, but it’s the Missouri General Revenue that determines how much money is available to the A+ Program as a whole. According to the Missouri Department of Higher Education, tuition reimbursements “may be reduced if there are insufficient state appropriations.” (source)

    This is why the A+ Program has recently made statewide news: the Missouri General Revenue is expected to earn less money in 2015 than originally projected, and because the Missouri Constitution forbids the state from operating in the red, the governor has adjusted 2015 spending projections so that they don’t exceed income projections.

    Unfortunately, the state’s decreased revenues could affect graduates of more than 500 Missouri high schools. That’s an estimated 15,000 Missouri community college and vocational school students whose tuition reimbursements might be lower than they’ve planned for in the Spring of 2015.

    Why is A+ Program Funding Threatened?
    You might remember a catch phrase and hashtag called “#FridayFavors” that was used in the Missouri news a few weeks ago. The Friday Favors were a collection of tax break bills designed to help stimulate the Missouri economy by offering tax incentives to big businesses.

    Not all of those tax breaks passed, but those that did were good for businesses. Unfortunately, they aren’t so good for schools, parks, and other public works. As Governor Nixon tweeted before Friday Favors veto session, “#FridayFavors not accounted for in budget would reduce state & local revenues as well as dedicated funds for education, conservation & parks.”

    State Budget Director Linda Luebbering also warned of the dangers of new tax break bills to public education:

    “This is very significant from the standpoint that you have to reduce services and programs in order to make up for that loss. The biggest single beneficiary of state general revenue is K-12 education.”

    Another big beneficiary of the Missouri General Revenue are the thousands of public college students in Missouri. Missouri’s A+ students are seeing the effects of the Friday Favors budget cuts as their scholarship funding comes under threat.

    What You Can Do
    There is no question that increased high school graduation rates are good for Missouri. And it’s tough to argue against an infrastructure that helps Missouri students earn their associate’s degrees. And yet, the Missouri General Assembly passed tax break bills that threaten both of these things.

    If you believe that the A+ Program is important for Missouri’s students and Missouri’s economic future, please contact your legislator today to let them know that the A+ Program matters.

    If you are an A+ Program alumni who’s A+ scholarship helped you earn a degree from a Missouri community college or vocational school, contact your legislator to let them know how the A+ Program impacted your life and your livelihood.

    Click Here to Tweet a Message to the Missouri General Assembly and Governor Nixon.

    It’s up to us—Missouri’s parents, educators, and students—to let our elected officials know that public education is vital for K-12 and college students.

    To stay up-to-date on legislative and funding issues affecting public education in Missouri, bookmark the Missouri Parent Blog, follow us on Twitter, or like us on Facebook.




     

  • Missouri A+ Program May Face Cutbacks

    The Missouri Department of Higher Education has announced that there may be a reduction in the number of credit hours eligible for A+ Program reimbursement in the spring semester of 2015.

    The possible cutbacks in A+ funding are part of Governor Jay Nixon’s attempts to keep the Missouri General Revenue budget in balance. 12,000 students received A+ funding in the 2012-13 school year, and that number is expected to hit 15,000 in the 2014-15 school year.

    The increase in anticipated A+ Program expenses comes at a time when the Governor is already struggling to keep the budget balanced. When several tax break bills passed earlier this year, reducing the state’s anticipated tax revenues, Governor Nixon put spending restrictions—including a $2 million A+ Program funding withhold—in place.

    Learn More: The Governor Vetoes Tax Breaks

    The Missouri A+ Program covers two years of education at select community, technical, and vocational schools in Missouri. A+ reimbursements can be used to pay tuition, but are not designed to cover textbooks, personal expenses, or program-specific needs.

    In order to qualify for A+ funding, students must:
    · Attend a designated A+ high school for at least three years
    · Maintain a cumulative 2.5 GPA throughout high school
    · Attain a 95% attendance record from 9th through 12th grade
    · Provide 50 hours of unpaid tutoring or mentoring

    If A+ funding is decreased, students should be prepared to pay for four credit hours in Spring 2015. Four credit hours costs several hundred dollars at most of Missouri’s A+ colleges.

    What Does Four Credit Hours Cost?
    · Crowder College: $508 (source)
    · Ozark Technical College: $614 (source)
    · East Central College: $380 (in-district students) or $520(out-of-district students) (source)

    How A+ Program Cuts Will Affect Students
    Cuts to the A+ Program will affect students differently. Cassville High School’s A+ Program Sponsor Tyne Rabourn worries about whether her A+ students will be able to finish their higher education with the help the program offers.

    “We have a few students that might have to stop going to school,” Rabourn told the Cassville Democrat. She expressed her concern that some of Cassville’s students “couldn’t possibly borrow the money” to cover community college courses. (source)

    East Central College President Dr. Jon Bauer also expressed concerns about students having to resort to loans if A+ funds are cut:

    “We will continue working with students to make sure they’re aware of other options they may have, whether it’s scholarship funds that might still be available, payment plan options we have and options regarding student loans—though that would be the least attractive as we don’t’ want students to borrow more than they absolutely have to.” (source)

    On the other hand, Austen Lockhart, a representative from Ozarks Technical College is less worried about how A+ cuts will affect students. Lockhard told the University of Missouri’s The Maneater that A+ is a cushion for most students:

    “(The A+ Scholarship Program) basically acts as a cushion for a lot of students. If you can make the requirements in high school and get accepted, it is something that puts students at ease. However, I have not received complaints of funding cuts affecting anyone too majorly. For most people A+ is just that cushion, it’s not everything,” (source)

    It’s too soon to tell exactly what will happen with Missouri’s A+ Program funding, but 15,000 Missouri high school, college, and vocation students—and their parents—are anxious to find out.

    To stay up-to-date on legislative and funding issues affecting Missouri’s public schools, and to learn more about college and career readiness for Missouri high school students, come back often to the Missouri Parent Blog or follow Missouri Parent on Facebook and Twitter.



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