Getting Back to Workforce Development
The Senate returned to some level of normalcy this week as we refocused our efforts on moving legislation forward. The familiar and welcome theme of workforce education dominated much of this week’s activities.
I was pleased to present my Senate Bill 703 to the Education Committee. With three major components, this legislation would establish statewide guidelines for schools to help students better prepare for life after high school and set them on a path for future careers. Under the act, schools would require students to develop a non-binding individual career and academic plan of study. This legislation would also assist students determine what financial assistance is available to them either through the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (the FAFSA form) or through other federal aid programs.
Senate Bill 703 received wide and enthusiastic support during the hearing, with testimony provided by groups representing teachers, colleges, career centers and business interests. No one testified in opposition to the bill. My favorite witness during the hearing was Cade Tremain, a student at the University of Central Missouri, who testified that completing the FAFSA allowed him to achieve his post-secondary goals.
While it seemed a long time in coming, the Senate perfected its first bill of the 2022 legislative session this week. Senate Bill 672 modifies provisions of Missouri’s highly successful Fast Track workforce development program. First passed in 2019 and rolled out by the governor during an event at the West Plains campus of Missouri State University, Fast Track provides financial aid to adults who return to school for career education. The program was scheduled to sunset later this year, and the governor specifically asked for it to be renewed as part of his State of State address. In addition to extending the program, SB 672 expands eligibility for apprenticeships. During floor debate, additional provisions were added to limit the program to people who have lived in Missouri at least two years, with exceptions for military personnel and their families. Fast Track has expanded opportunities for Missouri citizens and helped non-traditional students transition to good-paying jobs in health care, education, computer sciences and other competitive fields, so it’s great to see it will continue.
In other activity, the Senate Appropriations Committee took up a supplemental budget originally drafted by the House of Representatives. Supplemental budgets are normally passed toward the end of the fiscal year to provide for unanticipated expenses and to balance the books for the current operating budget. This year’s $4.5 billion supplemental budget is far larger than any in the past due to an unprecedented amount of federal money from COVID relief packages and other programs passed by Congress. Facing a “use-it-or-lose-it” situation, the General Assembly must approve this budget in the coming weeks to take advantage of billions of dollars of federal money. Much of that money will go directly to local school districts, so I believe it’s vital we get this legislation passed. I’m looking forward to the full Senate discussing this bill on the Senate floor next week.
It is my honor to serve the residents of Douglas, Howell, Oregon, Ozark, Ripley, Texas, Webster and Wright counties in the Missouri Senate, and it’s always a pleasure to hear from friends and family back home. If I can help you in any way, please call my Capitol Office at 573-751-1882, or my District Office at 417-596-9011. You can also visit my webpage at www.senate.mo.gov/mem33, on Facebook: @SenatorKarlaEslinger, or follow me on Twitter: @seneslingermo.