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House panel hears bill to reduce annual teacher training requirements

by Anna Campbell | March 30, 2023 at 4:00 a.m.

The House Committee on Elementary and Secondary Education reviewed a bill Wednesday that its proponents say would take redundant training off teachers' plates at the beginning of the school year but that opponents said could remove training key to school safety.

HB 633, sponsored by Rep. Ann Kelley, R-Lamar, would allow school districts to determine how often veteran teachers must receive training, rather than requiring each training annually.

New teachers must complete all trainings, but after three years, districts would determine how often training is necessary based on need.

Kelley, a former teacher, said the training for teachers at the beginning of the school year requires, "A complete day-- you're glued in front of your computer watching training videos, training videos, training videos."

She said she had seen every video before.

The bill was supported by the Missouri Council of School Administrators, the Missouri State Teachers Association and the Missouri National Education Association.

"My wife after 31 years in the business world entered the education world at our career center," said Mike Wood of the MSTA. "So obviously her first year she had a ton of the trainings to go through. She just started her second year, and she turns, and she looks at me, and she says, 'You mean I've got to do this again?' I said, 'Get used to it.'"

Wood said the bill would provide districts with more flexibility.

MCSA's Mike Lodewegen said the measure gives teachers more time to focus on educating children and said it is a piece of recruiting and retaining teachers.

Lara Wakefield, owner of a Columbia advocacy business that serves families of children with disabilities, opposed the bill, noting that children with disabilities are restrained at a disproportionate rate.

"My families shared that if an annual training reduces the likelihood of the death of a child during a restraint, then it's worth the investment of a one- to two-hour annual training for a refresher course," she said.

Jere Hochman, a former educator, spoke in opposition. Referencing earlier discussions about teachers injured by students, he said, "My question is, were they trained? Did they go through de-escalation training? Did they know when to walk away and that it would be okay to do something else? Did they know the strategies? And can we expect them to remember that from something they heard five years ago?"

Hochman said training makes teachers prepared for emergency situations.

The committee passed several bills with amendments.

Rep. Ben Baker, R-Neosho, sponsored HB 482, which would create a "Parents' Bill of Rights Act" that guarantees rights, including the right to review curricula and the right to visit the school.

The bill was amended to include a version of Rep. Ed Lewis's "Teachers Bill of Rights," which, among other rights, guarantees a teacher's right to be "free from physical abuse from a student or a parent" and be protected from oral or written abuse.

Rep. Maggie Nurrenbern, D-Kansas City, said she'd rather see the amendment have its own hearing in committee and said she had some concerns about the language.

The bill passed with the amendment attached.

The committee passed an altered version of HB 529, a bill that would remove a funding cap within the school funding formula. The revised version would likely cost $300 million in additional school funding over the course of its nine-year implementation. It also passed an altered version of HB 159, sponsored by Rep. Ian Mackey, D-St. Louis, which would limit the circumstances under which preschool through third-grade students could be suspended from school.

The committee also heard a bill that would make the half-credit health education requirement a health and family education requirement placing an emphasis on behavioral health, parenting skills and other topics. It also heard a bill that would increase the grant amount available through Empowerment Scholarship Accounts to free and reduced lunch-eligible students, students with Individualized Educational Plans, and English learners.

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