Missouri bill would let students graduate early and use their school funds for college

(The Center Square) – Students graduating early from high school and advancing to a postsecondary institution would receive 90% of the funding spent on them by their school district under a proposed bill in the Missouri Legislature.

The “Show Me Success Diploma Program” is one of three initiatives Rep. Doug Richey, R-Excelsior Springs, is hoping to establish in House Bill 1956. The bill creates the “Competency-Based Education Grant Program” for Missouri’s Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) to award grants to school districts creating programs for students to earn credit based upon proficiency in various subjects.

The bill also creates the “Competency-Based Education Task Force” to study and develop programs for public schools.

“This creates a pathway that is not mandated upon any districts,” Richey said on Monday during a Workforce Development Committee. “Districts are free to participate if they desire. It also creates a pathway for students in high school to graduate early once they’ve proven competency in areas that will be identified.”

The new diploma program would allow students to graduate at the end of 10th grade. Students who earn the new diploma may remain in high school or enroll in postsecondary education. Those students enrolled in postsecondary schools will receive 90% of the student’s proportionate share of the state, local and federal aid the district or charter school receives for each student. The money would be deposited in an account with the student named as the beneficiary.

School districts will be permitted to continue including the early graduates in the calculations to receive state funding up to the point where the student would have graduated after the 12th grade.

“A district will not be penalized in terms of funding if that student graduates early through this program,” Richey said. “The district will continue to identify that student as part of their enrollment. So this is a win for the district and there’s also a benefit to the student.”

In addition to the awarding grants, the bill’s fiscal note reported DESE’s estimate of $1 million for implementing each competency-based course. The cost includes creating and sharing development assessments and curriculum and training for teachers.

The task force will consist of two members from each legislative chamber, the commissioner of education and four members appointed by the governor. The task force will conduct interviews and at least three public hearings to identify successful programs and obstacles to implementation.

No one testified against the bill during the hearing. Otto Fajen, the legislative director for the Missouri National Education Association, testified other states have successfully implemented similar programs.

“We’ve been working and encouraging the legislature for a number of years to move forward and provide support for outcome-based or proficiency-based instructional models,” Fajen said. “We have some schools doing some amazing things for many years.”