Missouri House expands Senate education bill as end of session looms | State News

JEFFERSON CITY — The Missouri Senate’s elementary and secondary education bill was loaded with House amendments as it passed through the chamber Monday evening.

Senate Bill 681 originally addressed reading and literacy teaching in schools. But while the bill was still in the Senate, it grew to also include school board curriculum review, parental consent for individualized education programs, special education reimbursement to schools, establishing recovery high schools and more. It is the result of two bills that were combined and then heavily amended.

The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Cindy O’Laughlin, R-Shelbina, said there had been some understanding that the bill as constructed by the Senate was great as it was, and there was initial hope that it would be relatively untouched.

“On the one hand, I hate to get back a bill that’s got 15 amendments on it,” O’Laughlin said. “On the other, I’ve looked at some of the first big long string (of House amendments). None of them were really great big items. They were fairly inconsequential, so they don’t really bother me.”

The 18 amendments included a wide range of topics, including open enrollment, mental health awareness training for school faculty, school protection officers, drivers education and more.

Rep. Chuck Basye, R-Rocheport, the House handler for the bill, said they don’t have many more opportunities to get education legislation passed, since the sessions ends in nine days.

“You can try to talk down amendments, but I hate to do that to colleagues, even on the Democrat side, because they are trying to get things down,” Basye said.

Of the amendments, none were seen as too controversial. A few of the amendments were language tweaks, Basye said, like the one for Holocaust education, which aligned the bill’s language with that of the Senate’s.

“I’m hopeful that what we did today won’t harm the bill,” Basye said.

Basye said both he and another representative decided not to offer several more controversial amendments, like one addressing the transgender sports issue, because they would be problematic in the Senate.

“So we pulled back on those,” he said. “It’s not because I didn’t want to offer them, I just felt that could have been very, very harmful.”

Basye said the overall bill “is a good piece of legislation that’s needed. So I think we can work together and hopefully get most of this stuff through to the governor.”

The bill will next go to the Senate to consider the House’s changes. If senators disagree with any of the additions, a conference committee will be created to try to hash out the differences.

“That’s what a conference committee is for,” Bayse said, noting that they likely would remove some of the amendments that could block passage. “And I have no problem with that.”

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