Senator Holly Thompson Rehder's Legislative Column for Feb. 16, 2023
Thursday, February 16, 2023
Protecting Children and Empowering Parents
It is nearly 400 miles from Sikeston to Kansas City. That’s about the same distance a Southeast Missouri resident would have to drive to get to Atlanta, Chicago or Des Moines. Despite this great distance, I think we all felt a sense of hometown pride watching the Kansas City Chiefs win the Super Bowl last weekend. You could certainly feel the excitement this week at the State Capitol, as nearly every conversation began with “How ’bout those Chiefs!” The game had so much impact, the Senate adjourned a day early so legislators could attend the victory parade. Congratulations to Kansas City and the Chiefs.
Despite the short week, we still managed to get quite a bit done. One highlight for me was the opportunity to present Senate Bill 40 to the Education and Workforce Development Committee. I’ve been trying to get this bill passed for a couple of years now, but I think there’s a good chance it gets across the line this session. Senate Bill 40 would require a background check for adult students attending career and technical classes alongside traditional high school students. Many of the career development classes taught at Missouri’s public schools are open to adults. That’s great. I’m all for efforts to develop Missouri’s workforce, but there is a concern when you have a 30-something-year-old man sitting next to a 16-year-old girl in a classroom.
We require criminal background checks for volunteers at our schools – even the lunch lady has to have a background check – so it makes sense that adult students would be held to the same standard. My bill would not prevent a person convicted of a crime from seeking additional career training, but the school could make sure to only enroll these students in a night class or some other setting where they aren’t placed in the same classroom as children.
In other legislative activity this week, the Senate passed a “Parents’ Bill of Rights.” Part of Senate Bill 4, the legislation will provide parents better insight into what their children are learning. One of the most important parts of this bill, in my opinion, is the requirement that schools post lists of textbooks, source materials and other information about classroom curriculum online at a “transparency portal.” This legislation will empower parents, give them the means to weigh in on their kid’s education and make changes when they see problems.
Another part of SB 4 prohibits the teaching of divisive racial concepts. I believe it’s critically important for children to learn history, but we need to stick to what happened and not try to assign guilt to our kids. Students are not responsible for the horrific actions that took place so many years ago, and shouldn’t be made to feel responsible for things they had nothing to do with. This legislation will help ensure that doesn’t happen.
Along those lines, I had the opportunity to share some history with my colleagues this week. During February, senators take turns recalling the contributions of notable Black Americans in honor of Black History Month. For my presentation, I spoke about Bishop T.D. Jakes, the founder of The Potter’s House church of Dallas. One of the most spiritual influential voices in America, Bishop Jakes has been personally meaningful to me. I often listen to his sermons online when I’m facing an impasse. I have been particularly moved by his book, “Woman, Thou Art Loosed,” and the message of empowerment it has inspired for decades. I highly recommend Bishop Jakes’ teachings, and I was proud to share his story as my contribution to Black History Month in the Missouri Senate.
I always appreciate hearing your comments, opinions and concerns. Please feel free to contact me in Jefferson City at (573) 751-2459. You may write me at Holly Thompson Rehder, Missouri Senate, State Capitol, Rm 433, Jefferson City, MO 65101, send an email to Holly.Rehder@senate.mo.gov or visit www.senate.mo.gov/Rehder.