Missouri: Legislators Look To Promote Literacy And Protect Kids From Lead Poisoning Through Proposed Education Bill

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What is taking place: On Thursday, the House of Representatives enacted a major education measure that includes requirements to protect kids from lead poisoning and to address high illiteracy rates.

How it came to be: Legislators,  Sen. Cindy O’Laughlin and R-Shelbina, who sponsored the bill, say that it began as a strategy to combat illiteracy in the state, and now it has grown to include several non-controversial education initiatives that they say are essential. Furthermore, Sen. Jill Schupp, D-Creve Coeur, also pushed for a more visible provision in the bill, which would require schools to test their drinking water for lead and install filters to safeguard pupils.

Looking deeper into the literacy section: By eighth grade, more than half of pupils are unable to read at a proficient level, according to Department of Elementary and Secondary Education statistics.

DESE data reveals that proficiency levels fell in the 2021 academic year, contributing to what some educators have dubbed a reading crisis after the epidemic.

Looking deeper into the lead poisoning section: According to a nationwide research published in 2021, the number of youngsters in Missouri with elevated blood levels of lead was two times higher than the national norm. For the sake of pupils’ health and safety, experts have concluded that there is no acceptable amount of lead exposure.

What the bill also Includes: Financial incentives for schools to share administrators are among the measures included in the plan to solve financing and teacher shortages.

Computer science education will be extended, four “recovery high school” pilot programs will be formed, and corporal punishment will not be used in schools without parental consent under the new law.

Also, The bill establishes a certification scheme for substitute teachers and permits retired teachers to substitute teach without having their pensions affected by the change. “We need some qualified, certified people with some experience in there quickly to help our children recover from that learning loss,” said Rep. Raychel Proudie, D-Ferguson.

What has been removed from the bill: A “School Accountability Portal,” open enrollment for schools, Black and Native American history programs, and mandatory driver’s education were among the points deleted from the final bill by other lawmakers.

What’s next: The bill is reportedly on Governor Mike Parson’s desk for approval.

For further information about the bill, please check Senate Bill 681.