Last week the Governor signed Senate Bill (SB) 638, a bill relating to education. SB 638 is legislation that seeks to promote Missouri history and civics education in our state’s classrooms. This bill creates the Missouri Civics Education Initiative that requires students in public, charter, and private high schools to receive a passing grade on a standardized civics test in order to graduate. Exams will consist of one hundred questions, the same questions used on the civics portion on the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services’ U.S. Naturalization test. This is the test taken by immigrants who are trying to gain American citizenship. The bill specifies that all Missouri students entering the 9th grade after July 1, 2017, will be required to pass this basic civics test. SB 638 is meant to empower students with a thorough knowledge of our country’s history and our system of government.
Another portion of SB 638 will expand the state’s A+ Scholarship Program by making it available to private school students in Missouri. Currently, the program provides scholarship funds to eligible graduates of an A+ designated high school. Students receiving scholarships must attend a participating public community college or vocational-technical school or a private two-year vocational-technical college. This legislation approved by the General Assembly and now signed by the Governor will make the A+ scholarship program available to students in participating private schools. Those in support of the change noted that parents of private school students pay taxes to help fund the state’s scholarship programs and it is only right to allow their children a chance to benefit from this taxpayer-funded program.
Finally, the third component of SB 638 will provide additional resources and assistance to young people with dyslexia, a condition in which the reader doesn’t process words in the usual fashion. The disorder is more common than many realize, but effective teaching strategies can have a significant impact on a dyslexic student’s ability to learn. Dyslexia is not a sign of low intelligence or laziness. Though it is generally associated with reading problems, it can also impact writing, spelling, and even speaking, by affecting the way the brain processes spoken language. Dyslexia is a lifelong condition and, unfortunately, not a condition that one will “grow out of.” Early detection and diagnosis is critical in helping individuals to learn how to work with and around the condition. SB 638 is legislation that would require every public school to screen students for dyslexia and other related disorders.
The Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) will be responsible for developing the necessary guidelines for the dyslexia screening process. Requirements and guidelines adopted must be consistent with the recommendations of the Legislative Task Force on Dyslexia, a panel this bill also created. SB 638 will become law on August 28 and is anticipated to be important in helping many Missouri students.
Senate Bill 711 was another bill signed by the Governor and requires students to receive cardio pulmonary resuscitation (CPR) instruction and training in order to graduate, as well as training and instruction in the proper way to perform the Heimlich maneuver and other first aid methods for any individual who is choking. These requirements will begin for health and physical education classes in the 2017-2018 school year. The goal of this legislation is to help save lives and give parents greater peace of mind with the knowledge that their child’s peers are trained to deal with these emergency situations.
Your Missouri General Assembly recognizes the value of a good and thorough education for our young people. SB 638 and SB 711 are just two examples of how we are trying to do our part to make their instruction even better and healthier and to help insure our state’s young people have the information and additional skills they will need as they move out of classrooms and into the world. We appreciate Governor Nixon for also seeing the value of these two bills and signing them into law.