SB 55
Modifies provisions related to elementary and secondary education
LR Number:
Last Action:
5/13/2021 - Informal Calendar S Bills for Perfection
Journal Page:
SCS SBs 55, 23 & 25
Calendar Position:
Effective Date:
August 28, 2021

Current Bill Summary

SS#2/SCS/SBs 55, 23, & 25 - This act modifies provisions related to elementary and secondary education.


This act establishes the "Missouri Empowerment Scholarship Board" to administer the Missouri Empowerment Scholarship Accounts Program. The State Treasurer shall serve as the chairman of the Board. Other members of the Board shall include the Commissioner of the Office of Administration, the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education Nonpublic Ombudsman, the Director of the Department of Revenue, and three members appointed, respectively, by the President Pro Tempore of the Senate, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, and the Governor. The three appointed members shall serve terms of four years except as otherwise provided in the act.

The Board may develop and implement the Program and educational programs and informational materials for Program participants, may enter into agreements to operate the Program, may accept funds to be deposited in the Program Fund, and shall other powers and duties described in the act.

(Section 135.712)

A taxpayer may make a qualifying contribution to Missouri Empowerment Scholarship Accounts Program Fund and claim a tax credit equal to the contribution. The State Treasurer shall certify to the Department of Revenue each eligible applicant who qualifies. The amount of the tax credit claimed shall not exceed 50% of the taxpayer's state tax liability for the tax year for which the credit is claimed, and a taxpayer may carry the credit forward to any of the next four tax years. Tax credits authorized under the program may not be transferred, sold, or assigned, and are not refundable.

The annual cumulative amount of tax credits that may be allocated in the first year of the program shall not exceed $50 million. The amount available in each subsequent year shall grow by the same percentage of growth as the percentage of growth in funding appropriated for pupil transportation.

(Section 135.713)

The Board may certify and contract with educational assistance organizations (EAOs) for the purpose of administering such accounts. EAOs shall ensure that all revenues from interest and investments earned from program contributions and ninety percent of such contributions shall go to such accounts. Distributions of funds to scholarship accounts shall be made as described in the act, with priority given to students who have previously participated and such students' siblings. EAOs shall administer the collection of data from standardized testing and parental surveys as described in the act.

Each EAO shall report certain additional information related to its tax status and personnel criminal background history and report to DESE student performance and demographic data and parental survey data. EAOs administering accounts with $50,000 or more total program funds shall file a surety bond, insurance policy, or other financial information to demonstrate that such funds can be repaid if lost. EAOs may use 3-10% of program funds, calculated as described in the act, for marketing and administrative expenses. All other program funds shall only be used to make payments to eligible scholarship accounts.

The Board shall ensure compliance with all student privacy laws for data in its possession, shall collect test result data of all students participating in the program and shall provide achievement data specified in the act on a state website.

The Board and EAOs may contract with private financial management firms to manage scholarship accounts with DESE supervision.

(Section 135.714)

This act establishes the "Missouri Empowerment Scholarship Accounts Program Fund", consisting of contributions and any other gifts, donations, or appropriations to the scholarship program. The State Treasurer shall be the custodian of the Fund. The Fund shall be used for payments to scholarship accounts and to pay the expenses of the Board related to the administration of the program.

(Section 135.715)

The Treasurer shall provide standardized receipts for contributions to the program. A taxpayer shall provide a copy of such receipt if claiming a tax credit under the program. The Board shall certify eligibility for the tax credits to the Department of Revenue in the order received.

The Attorney General or State Auditor may conduct an investigation of any EAO if it possesses evidence of fraud. The Treasurer may bar an EAO from participating if the organization has failed to comply with program requirements.

The Board shall issue a report on the state of the program five years after it goes into effect, including information regarding the finances of EAOs and educational outcomes of qualified students.

(Section 135.716)

The provisions of the Missouri Sunset Act shall not apply to the program.

(Section 135.719)

A student is eligible to receive funds in a Missouri Empowerment Scholarship Account if he or she attended public school full-time for at least one semester in the last year, previously participated in the program, is eligible to begin kindergarten, is attending school for the first time, is the child of an active duty military member, or attended a public school at any time during the 2019-20 or 2020-21 school years.

(Section 166.700)

A parent of a qualified student may establish an educational savings account to pay the qualified educational expenses of the student. The parent shall sign an agreement with the Board or an EAO to enroll the qualified student in a qualified school to receive an education for the student in certain subjects; not enroll the student, other than a student that is in the custody of the state, in a school operated by the qualified student's district of residence or in a charter school; release the district of residence from the obligation of educating the student while the student is enrolled in the program; use the Missouri Empowerment Scholarship Account money for only specified purposes; and not use the funds for consumable education supplies or tuition at a private school located outside of the state.

The scholarship accounts are renewable on an annual basis upon request of the parent of a qualified student. A qualified student shall remain eligible for renewal until the student completes high school. If a qualified student withdraws from the program by enrolling in a school other than a qualified school, or is disqualified from the program for violations specified in the act, the scholarship account shall be closed and any remaining funds shall be returned to the Fund. When a student withdraws from the program, the responsibility for providing an education for that student transfers back to the student's district of residence.

The funds remaining in the scholarship account at the end of a school year shall remain in the account for the following school year. Any funds remaining in the account after graduation shall be returned to the Fund.

(Section 166.705)

Beginning in the 2023-2024 school year, the Board shall conduct or contract for an annual audit of accounts to ensure compliance. A parent may be disqualified from program participation if the Board determines that the parent is found to have committed an intentional program violation. The Board may refer cases of substantial misuse of moneys to the Attorney General.

(Section 166.710)

A person commits a Class A misdemeanor if he or she is found to have knowingly used moneys for any purposes other than those set forth in the act.

(Section 166.715)

These provisions shall become effective when the amount appropriated and expended for pupil transportation equals or exceeds forty percent of the allowable costs of providing pupil transportation.

(Section B)

These provisions are similar to SB/SCS 581 (2020) and HB 2068 (2020).


Under this act, charter schools may be operated in any school district located within a charter county as well as in any municipality with a population greater than 30,000.

Procedures relating to changes in a school district's accreditation status that affect charter schools are repealed under this act. (Section 160.400)

Under this act, St. Louis City shall not adopt, enforce, impose, or administer an ordinance, local policy, or local resolution that prohibits property sold, leased, or transferred by the city from being used for any lawful education purpose by a charter school.

St. Louis City may not impose, enforce, or apply any deed restriction that expressly, or by its operation, prohibits property sold, leased, or transferred by the city from being used for any lawful educational purpose by a charter school.

If St. Louis City offers property of the city for sale, lease, or rent, St. Louis shall not refuse to sell, lease, or rent to a charter school solely because the charter school intends to use the property for an educational purpose.

Any deeds that have been executed and recorded prior to the effective date of this act shall be exempt from this provision.

(Section 160.422)

These provisions are substantially similar to SB 649 (2020), SB 603 (2020), HB 1917 (2020), SS#2/SCS/SB 292 (2019), SCS/HB 485 (2019), and is similar to HCS/HB 581 (2019), SB 51 (2019), SCS/SB 271 (2019), HCS/HB 924 (2019), HCS/SS/SB 218 (2019).


This act modifies the calculation of the amount a school district with one or more pupils attending a charter school shall pay to the charter school.

Under this act, provisions of current law setting forth aid payments for charter schools shall only apply to school years ending on or before June 30, 2022.

For school years beginning on or after July 1, 2022, each charter school and each school district responsible for distributing local aid to charter schools shall include as part of their annual independent audit, an audit of pupil residency, enrollment, and attendance in order to verify pupil residency in the school district or local education agency.

A school district having one or more resident pupils attending a charter school shall pay to the charter school an annual amount equal to the product of the charter school's weighted average daily attendance and the state adequacy target, multiplied by the dollar value modifier for the district, less the charter school's share of local effort, plus all other state aid attributable to such pupils, plus local aid received by the school district, divided by the total weighted average daily attendance of the school district and all charter schools within the school district, per weighted average daily attendance of the charter school. Local aid is defined as all local and county revenue received by the school district and charter schools within the school district, per weighted average daily attendance of the charter school.

A charter school that has declared itself a local educational agency shall receive all state aid calculated under this act from the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, and all local aid calculated under the act from the school district. A charter school shall receive an annual amount as set forth in the act. Districts shall transmit their calculation of this amount to the Department by December 31st of each year. The district shall withhold an administrative fee, calculated as described in the act, from the annual amount from the January payment. The fee shall not be withheld from the amount payable in districts that fail to transmit their calculation to the Department.

Each month the school district shall calculate the amount of local aid owed to the charter school by the school district, and the school district shall pay such amount to the charter school. If any payment of local aid is due, the school district shall make monthly payments on the twenty-first day of each month, beginning in July of each year. If the school district fails to make timely payments to the charter schools, the Department shall impose any penalty deemed appropriate.

Each school district shall, as part of an annual audit, include a report converting the local aid received from an accrual basis to a cash basis. Such report shall be made publicly available on its district website.

The Department shall be required, under this act, to conduct an annual review of any payments made in the previous fiscal year to determine whether there has been any underpayment or overpayment. Such review shall include a calculation of the amount of local aid owed to charter schools using the first preceding year's annual audit. The school district shall pay to the charter school the amount calculated by such review. In the event of an underpayment, the school district shall remit the underpayment amount to the charter school. In the event of an overpayment, the charter school shall remit the overpayment amount to the school district. If the school district or charter school fails to remit any required payment, the Department shall impose any penalty deemed necessary.

If a prior year correction of the amount of local aid is necessary, the school district shall recalculate the amount owed to the charter school or provide a bill to the charter school for any overpayment amount.

(Section 160.415)

These provisions are identical to SCS/SB 218 (2021) and are similar to provisions of HCS/SS/SCS/SB 528 (2020), SCS/SB 734 (2020), HCS/SS/SCS/SB 570 (2020), and HCS/HB 1664 (2020), and is similar to SB 527 (2020).


This act establishes the Charter Public School Commission Revolving Fund in the State Treasury. Sponsorship funding due to the Charter Public School Commission from the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education in the Commission's role as a charter school sponsor shall be deposited into the Fund.

(Section 160.425)

These provisions are identical to SB 328 (2021).


This act modifies the public school accreditation and statewide assessment system. The act allows for the statewide assessment system to track student performance from different schools if a student has transferred from one school to another. The act defines "attendance center" as an individual public elementary or secondary school or charter school, and directs the State Board of Education (SBE) to collect and disseminate information on the attendance center level rather than the current overall district level. The act adds race and ethnicity to the annual reporting requirements currently established, and requires that the report include improvement suggestions to be research based with citations.

The act expands on the SBE classification and accreditation rule making authority by providing new categories of classification with specific methodology for making accreditation determinations. Districts and attendance centers in the bottom 10% of the state distribution will be classified as unaccredited, the bottom 25% will be provisionally accredited or unaccredited, and districts in the top 10% will be classified as accredited with distinction.

This act expands on the SBE's rulemaking authority for academic achievement and academic performance by requiring that academic growth account for no less than 40% of the total accreditation score, and providing further instruction for the calculation of performance. The act provides the SBE guidance on new rulemaking authority for local education agencies (LEA)that have attendance centers that become unaccredited and provisionally accredited. LEAs must develop and submit to the school board or governing agency a school improvement plan. The plan must be submitted to the school district or governing board within 60 days of receiving the designation and must include three-year goals for math and reading proficiency as outlined in the act. LEAs are encouraged to develop innovation zones and partner with nonprofit organizations with expertise in school redesign and improvement.

Any attendance center, school district, or charter school that is classified as provisionally accredited or unaccredited shall inform all parents of students of the classification, along with details on student options and future school improvement plans.

Any attendance center that is a charter school and unaccredited for four consecutive years shall be reconstituted in partnership with an accredited charter organization or be closed and any LEA shall provide students attending any attendance center that has been provisionally accredited for five consecutive years the option to transfer to an accredited attendance center within the district.

The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education shall recognize and publish attendance centers that are accredited with distinction and demonstrate significant academic growth.

(Sections 160.518, 160.545, 161.092, 162.084, and 163.023)

These provisions are identical to HB 942 (2021).


Under current law, when a sufficient number of children are determined to be gifted and their development requires programs or services beyond the level of those ordinarily provided in regular public school programs, school districts may establish special programs for such gifted children. Approval of such programs shall be made by the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education based upon project applications submitted by July 15 of each year.

Under this act, if 3% or more of students enrolled in a school district are determined to be gifted, the district is required to establish a state-approved gifted program for gifted children. If a school district has an average daily attendance of 350 students or fewer, the district's gifted program shall not be required to provide services by a teacher certified to teach gifted education. Any teacher who provides gifted services through the program, and is not certified, shall annually participate in at least 6 hours of professional development focused on gifted development. These provisions shall apply to school years beginning on or after July 1, 2023.

Approval of such programs shall be made by the Department based upon project applications submitted at a time and in a form determined by the Department.

These provisions are identical to SCS/SB 151 (2021) and are similar to HB 306 (2021), SB 645 (2020), HB 112 (2019), HCS/SS/SB 218 (2019), HB 136 (2019), HB 1435 (2018), and HB 1030 (2017).


This act modifies the definition of "weighted average daily attendance" as used in the education funding formula to mean the average daily attendance plus the product of .275, rather than .25, multiplied by the free and reduced price lunch pupil count that exceeds the free and reduced price lunch threshold, plus certain other factors set forth under current law.

The same modification is made in the calculation of weighted average daily attendance for special school districts.

These provisions are similar to SB 476 (2021) and SB 954 (2020).


This act modifies current law regarding literacy and reading education.

Under this act, the State Board of Education shall require literacy and reading coursework for teacher education programs aligned to certification for teachers in early childhood, elementary, language arts, English, special reading, and special education, including the core components of reading, oral and written language development, identification of reading deficiencies and language difficulties, the administration of assessments, and the application of assessment data to the classroom.

(Section 161.097)

This act also modifies provisions related to reading success plans, formerly known as reading intervention plans.

The State Board of Education, in collaboration with the Coordinating Board for Higher Education and the Literacy Advisory Council established under this act, shall develop a plan to establish a comprehensive system of services for reading instruction.

Each local school district and charter school shall have on file a policy for reading success plans for any pupils of the district in grades kindergarten through four, rather than through grade three. Each policy shall be aligned with the guidelines developed by the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education for reading success plans. Authority to develop guidelines to assist school districts and charter schools in formulating policies for reading success plans is transferred from the State Board of Education to the Department. Any guidelines for instruction shall meet the needs of the student by ensuring that instruction is explicit and systematic and diagnostic, and based on certain elements set forth in the act. Each school shall provide supplemental reading instruction under a reading success plan to any student who exhibits a reading deficiency.

(Section 167.268)

Each school district and charter school shall provide training on the administration of reading assessments to all K-5 teachers and any other personnel who provide literacy instruction.

Under current law, each school district and charter school shall administer a reading assessment to each student within 45 days of the end of the third-grade year, unless a student has been determined in the current school year to be reading at grade level or above. Under this act, each school district and charter school shall administer a reading assessment or set of assessments to each student within the first 30 days of school for grades one through four, and by January 31 for kindergarten, unless a student has been determined in the previous school year to be reading at grade level or above. School districts and charter schools shall provide reading success plans to students with an individualized education plan (IEP) that have a reading deficiency, and to students receiving services under the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 whose services plan includes an element addressing reading.

This act repeals the requirement that school districts and charter schools design a reading success plan for the student's fourth-grade year if the student's third-grade reading assessment determines the student is reading below second-grade level. The provision is replaced with a requirement that school districts and charter schools offer a reading success plan to each K-4 student who exhibits a reading deficiency that has been identified as being at risk for dyslexia in the statewide dyslexia screening requirement, or has a formal diagnosis of dyslexia. The reading success plan shall be provided in addition to the core reading instruction provided to all students, and shall meet criteria set forth in the act.

If a student who is provided a reading success plan is determined to not be reading at or above grade level by the end of 2nd grade, the student shall receive structured literacy instruction as well as additional support and services. For students in grades 6-12, schools shall continue to address the reading deficiencies of any student for whom the deficiency creates a barrier to success in school.

A reading success plan shall be created no later than 45 days after the identification of a reading deficiency. Such plan shall be created by the teacher and other pertinent school personnel, along with the parent or legal guardian, and shall describe the evidence-based reading improvement services the student shall receive. The reading success plan shall specify if a student was found to be at risk for dyslexia in the statewide dyslexia screening requirement or if the student has a formal diagnosis of dyslexia.

Under current law, each student for whom a reading success plan has been designed shall be given another reading assessment to be administered within 45 days of the end of the student's fourth-grade year. If such student is determined to be reading below third-grade level, the student shall be required to attend summer school. This act repeals such requirement, and instead requires such student to be referred for an evaluation for an IEP plan and the district shall provide appropriate intensive structured literacy instruction on an individualized basis. If the student does not qualify for an IEP, the student shall continue to receive appropriate, intensive structured literacy instruction on an individualized basis until the student is reading at grade level.

Each school district and charter school is required to offer summer school reading instruction to any student with a reading success plan. Districts may fulfill the requirement through cooperative arrangements with neighboring districts.

The parent or legal guardian of any K-5 student who exhibits a deficiency in reading shall be notified in writing no later than 30 school days after identification of the deficiency. The written notification shall meet certain requirements set forth in the act.

This act establishes the Literacy Advisory Council within the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. The council shall include 12-20 members appointed by the Commissioner of Education. Members shall include stakeholders and specialists specified in the act. The advisory council shall meet biannually to review best practices in literacy instruction and related policies, and shall make recommendations to the Commissioner and the State Board of Education.

(Section 186.080)

These provisions are similar to SB 966 (2020), SCS/SB 349 (2019), HCS/SS/SB 218 (2019), SB 73 (2019), HCS/HB 464 (2019), HCS/SCS/SB 949 (2018), HB 1417 (2018).


Under this act, school districts shall not receive funding under the foundation formula if such district is a member of, or remits any funds to, any statewide activities association that prohibits a home school student from participating in any event or activity offered by the school district, or requires a home school student to attend the public school for any portion of a school day, except for certain general seat time or class number requirements as described in the act, in order to participate in any event or activity.

The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education is required to withhold payments to districts in violation of this act until such district proves to the State Board of Education that the school district has ceased membership in the organization.

This act further provides that a statewide activities association shall not prohibit or restrict any school district that is a member of the association from participating in any events authorized or regulated by the association with any school that is not a member of the association.

(Section 167.790)

These provisions are identical to SB 875 (2020) and SB 130 (2019).


This act allows a school district to offer an elective social studies unit on the Hebrew Scriptures, the Old Testament of the Bible, or the New Testament of the Bible. The course will include the contents, history, literary style and structure, and influences on society. No requirement shall be made by the district on the text translation students must use. This act requires that any course offered shall follow applicable laws maintaining religious neutrality, and shall not endorse, favor, promote, or show hostility to any particular religion, nonreligious faith, or religious perspective.

(Section 170.341)

This act is identical to SB 323 (2021) and HB 1345 (2020) and is similar to HB 267 (2019).


Under current law, school districts and schools may be exempted from requirements to provide in-person instruction or to make up school days or hours under circumstances and through procedures provided in current law.

Beginning with the 2021-22 school year, no school district shall be granted any such exemption or waiver, including the approval or waiver of requirements for an alternative methods of instruction plan, based on the COVID-19 pandemic unless such district demonstrates to the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education that students are still offered the option of in-person instruction for at least 4 days per week or that the school district or school has a specific need to temporarily suspend in-person instruction based on data including the number of staff members quarantined due to COVID-19 and the availability of substitute staff relative to the needs of the district or school.

(Section 171.033)