Missouri: Literacy, Sub Shortages, And Students’ Outcomes Are Among The Priorities Of Newly Proposed Bill

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One of the most comprehensive K-12 education reform bills in Missouri is on the brink of becoming enacted.

Several sections of Senate Bill 681, sponsored by Republican Senator Cindy O’Laughlin of Shelbina, are devoted to providing kids with a variety of options for graduating, obtaining a high school diploma, or obtaining career technical education while still in school.

The Workforce Diploma Program, for example, would enable schools to employ educators to teach specialty subjects or programs like trade or work-based skills.  She argued that this provides schools more leeway in their curriculum and better prepares kids for the real world.  You can see that “we just have a need in every area and it gives kids more options,” said O’Laughlin. When it comes to starting a profession, “not every student is going to go to a four-year college, nor do they need to.”

Substitute teachers will also be addressed by this measure, as well. Substitute teachers may get a four-year credential via this program. Until June 30, 2025, retired teachers would be able to substitute teach part-time or as a short-term replacement without affecting their retirement benefits.

Reading and literacy are also addressed by the legislation, which established a comprehensive system of services for reading education, as well as assessment and intervention when needed.  The North Shelby School District believes that everything done to improve the reading and communication skills of pupils is a positive thing.  According to Kim Gaines, their school system uses a similar tool to identify pupils who are having difficulty reading and strive to help them improve.  As Gaines put it, the measure may make the process more efficient while while ensuring that incoming instructors have the appropriate qualifications.

Reading education will be addressed at the post-secondary level, Gaines believes. “I think they’re going to be addressing reading instruction at the post-secondary level,” Gaines said. Students that struggle in reading and literacy will be recognized so that more support may be provided where it is most needed, according to O’Laughlin. Gaines expressed her concerns about the amount of bureaucracy that would be created and warned that the intricacy of the program may make it difficult for districts to adopt.

As of now, Governor Mike Parson has not yet signed the bill into law. His signature is expected within the next two weeks.