Monday, March 30, 2015

House bill would require smaller Missouri schools to consolidate

(From Rep. Kurt Bahr, R-O'Fallon)

The Missouri General Assembly was on Spring Break last week. Before we left I filed a controversial bill to improve funding for education, HB1292.

The state of Missouri has 522 school districts and 194 of them are considered small school districts with a total of 350 students or less. HB 1292 will consolidate these school districts by having either small districts combine to become one district with more than 350 students or a small district to join with a larger neighboring districts. By eliminating administrate costs we will have more money for teachers and real education.
This bill affects school districts not school building as is clearly stated in the bill “8. Nothing in this section shall be construed to require the closing of any school or school facility” I have no intention of closing schools; I am attempting to make sure that the taxpayer’s money is spent on the students and not on administrators. There is no reason that two adjacent school districts with 200 students, who are located in the same county couldn’t join forces and become one district with 400 students.

As Chairman of the Education budget I have learned that we spend an extra $15M on these school districts outside of the Foundation Formula. By combining these districts we can put that money back into the formula for all the students in our state.

Student Freedom of Association Act

HB 104 prohibits an institution of higher learning from taking
any action or enforcing any policy that denies a religious student association any benefit available to other student organizations or from discriminating against a religious student organization with respect to the benefit based on any of the religious requirements or leadership standards placed on the organization.

The bill prohibits any institution of higher learning from substantially burdening a student's exercise of religion unless the institution can demonstrate that application of the burden is in furtherance of a compelling interest of the institution and is the least restrictive means for doing so. Any student or religious student association that has been aggrieved as a result of a violation of these provisions may assert the violation as a claim or defense in a judicial or administrative proceeding against the public institution of higher learning and obtain appropriate relief, including damages.

Across the United States colleges and universities are enforcing what they are calling, “an all comers policy.” An all comers policy states that no student could be excluded from a leadership post of a student club or organization on ideological grounds. College Republicans must allow Democrats to seek office; the environmental group had to welcome climate-change skeptics; and a leader of a religious group could not be dismissed if she renounced faith midyear. (The administration usually grants an exception to sororities and fraternities.)

This policy has become an attack on the religious clubs. In the first year of implementation at Vanderbilt University, 14 campus religious communities—comprising about 1,400 Catholic, Evangelical, and Mormon students—lost their organizational status. This means they could not advertise or meet on campus. They are, in fact, silenced and ostracized by this policy based upon their religious doctrine. This movement is sweeping across the United States into all universities and colleges. All of the universities in the California state system have now adopted it. So it is only a matter of time, before the Missouri colleges and universities attempt to stop their students from meeting like-minded people on their college campus. HB 104 will hopefully stop this Theophobia from spreading to our schools and impacting our children.

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