As a member of the Committee on Workforce Development, I was proud to help approve legislation this week that will ensure Missouri’s system of higher education is working to meet the state’s workforce and education needs. HB 1465 is one of many good bills heard by the committee that will help to move our workforce forward for the future.

As a member of the Committee on Workforce Development, I was proud to help approve legislation this week that will ensure Missouri’s system of higher education is working to meet the state’s workforce and education needs. HB 1465 is one of many good bills heard by the committee that will help to move our workforce forward for the future.

The bill is meant to address the lack of skilled workers in certain fields in various parts of the state. To address the workforce shortage, a community college could apply to the Coordinating Board of Higher Education to offer a four-year degree in a field that is underemployed. Community colleges would need to meet several standards in order to be approved and would need to show there are no other available options like collaborating with a four-year university.

The community college would also need to prove the program is necessary to address a workforce shortage, and that the institution has the ability to provide a high-quality program.

Supporters noted that all 22 of the state’s public universities and colleges have agreed to the language in the bill. They say the legislation will give students all over the state greater access to educational opportunities, and help to further develop the state’s workforce.

Expanding Virtual School Options for Missouri Students (HB 1408)

House members also gave initial approval to a piece of legislation meant to better prepare young people for success in the workforce. The bill approved by the House is meant to expand course options and access for K-12 students. The legislation would change the Missouri Virtual Instruction Program (MOVIP) to “The Missouri Course Access Program” (MCAP) and allow any K-12 student to enroll in MCAP courses.

The Missouri Virtual Instruction Program was established in 2007 to offer online courses to public, private, and home school students. The program allows students to take advanced courses that are not currently offered by their local school districts. However, the existing MOVIP has seen funding dwindle in recent years, which has limited free tuition to students who are unable to attend traditional schools because of health issues. As a result, many students in districts without certain high-level math, science, and advanced placement courses are not able to enroll in these courses online.

The legislation approved this week would change the program so that it does not rely on a direct appropriation, but would instead redirect a portion of the per-pupil funding provided by the state. In order to give students in all parts of the state access to advanced coursework, the legislation would allow students to take online courses that would be paid by the school district or charter school. Students would be eligible if they have attended the school for at least one semester, and the course is not available in the school district. The bill requires the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education to review the online courses to ensure they meet state standards.

Supporters say that the bill gives students the opportunity to take courses that their school does not offer, especially in the case of small schools unable to hire teachers for advanced or specialized subject areas. They say it is meant to make education fair, equitable, and accessible.

 The bill now awaits a final vote in the House before moving to the Senate for consideration.

Committee Work

I am proud to announce that the subcommittee I chaired in 2017, the Subcommittee on Corrections Workforce Environment and Conduct, has been reinstated for this year. I look forward to continuing to work with my colleagues on improving the conditions in the Missouri Department of Corrections. All state employees, including our corrections officers and workers, deserve a safe and professional work environment.

This legislative session, I will also be serving as Vice-Chair of the Committee on Corrections and Public Institutions.