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Missouri Legislature considers bills allowing guns in colleges and restricting teaching about racism | KCUR 89.3

Expanding government financial assistance programs, banning COVID-19 vaccine requirements on campus, and restricting lessons about racism and sexism are just some of the topics of higher education laws being proposed in the Missouri legislature.

The next legislative session begins on January 5, but representatives and senators are already presenting proposed laws that they will debate during the first months of 2022.

There is no guarantee that any of these bills will be heard in committee, let alone debated by the House or the full Senate or signed into law by Governor Mike Parson. Legislation can also be modified, sometimes significantly, at several stages in the process.

But we’ve compiled a list of some of the higher education proposals that have already been made so you can get a feel for what lawmakers have in mind.

If you have strong opinions on these issues, you can contact your representative or senator.

Expanding the Impact of the A+ Scholarship Program in Missouri

When considering the sheer number of bills, how students are paid to attend college in Missouri is one of the most popular higher education topics. Legislators of both parties would like to modify the way the A+ scholarship program is administered. The program provides a free community college to Missouri high school graduates who complete 50 hours of mentoring for younger students and meet other requirements.

Rep. Brenda Shields, a Republican from St. Joseph, has introduced legislation (HB 1723) that would allow A+ students who graduated with a college degree or its equivalent without using more than $10,000 of A+ funds to use the remaining dollars toward a bachelor’s degree.

For example, a student from the Kansas City area who is eligible for the “in-area” tuition rate at Metropolitan Community College will pay $6,960 in tuition for the 60 credit hours required for the associate’s degree, plus fees, and therefore may have funding behind her.

Representative Kevin Windham, a Democrat from Hillsdale in St. Louis County, has introduced several bills that would allow students to receive multiple types of financial aid at the same time.

For example, a student can currently complete an A+ volunteer work but receive no money from the program because they later receive a Federal Pell Grant that covers the costs of their education.

The Wyndham Legislation (HB 1786) will provide students with some funding on top of federal awards or (HB 1790) applies A+ dollars for education costs prior to state, private and other federal funding.

Expand Access Missouri Scholarships

The Access Missouri Financial Aid Program is available to students whose families can contribute $12,000 or less annually, as determined by the Free Application for Federal Student Aid.

Wyndham also suggests expanding the influence of Access Missouri.

Windham introduced legislation that would remove the requirement to reduce Access Missouri scholarships (HB 1784) by the amount of any A+ scholarships taken, expand the number of semesters (HB 1788), student access to Access Missouri funds and increase scholarship amounts (HB 1787) for the program .

Wyndham also wants to require the state to report data on demographics (HB 1785) for state scholarship recipients and to ban colleges and universities from withholding transcripts (HB 1789) for unpaid tuition bills.

Non-traditional college student bills and loans

Other financial aid legislation includes a bill sponsored by Senator Lincoln Hogg, a Springfield Republican, to expand the Expedited Workforce Incentive Grant Program for non-traditional students and allow it to cover the costs of vocational training (SB 672).

Senator Bill White, a Joplin Republican, introduced a bill to expand state loan programs (SB 757) for health care students by increasing maximum loan amounts and eligible careers.

Finally, Representative Alan Gray, a Blackjack Democrat in St. Louis County, wants to ask the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education to propose a pilot program called Pay Forward, Pay Off (HB 1822).

The program will provide free college tuition to students in exchange for a binding agreement that they pay a percentage of their salary for a specified number of years.

Ethnicity and gender training in higher education and sports participation

Representative Ann Kelly, a Republican from Lamar, has proposed legislation that would prohibit any public school, including a college or university, from requesting “training or counseling on sexual diversity or sexual diversity.” Required exercises cannot include racial or sexual profiling or prejudice.

The proposal would also prevent college and university staff (HB 1484) from including a number of concepts in their courses, including:

  • That race or gender is better or morally superior.
  • People being unintentionally racist or biased because of race or gender.
  • Notions of “merit” or “strong work ethic” are racist, sexist, or created to oppress another race.
  • People feel psychological distress, such as discomfort, distress, or guilt because of their race or gender.

Senator Mike Moon, a Republican from Ash Grove, is sponsoring a bill that would ban students who were designated male at birth from participating in women’s or girls’ school sports teams (SB 781). This would prevent transgender women from playing on women’s or girls’ sports teams.

The bill would apply to colleges and universities as well as middle and high schools and would include private schools competing against public schools.

COVID-19 vaccination requirements on the Missouri campus

Representative Nick Schroer, a Republican of Ovalon, introduced a motion that would prohibit any university receiving government funding from requesting a COVID-19 vaccination or “gene therapy” (HB 1475) as a condition of admission, employment, or physical presence at activities or facilities.

The University of Missouri System, which covers four campuses including the University of Missouri-Kansas City and the University of Missouri Columbia, recently stopped implementing a federal vaccine rule covering faculty, staff and students. It still requires vaccinations for health care workers and students who are in contact with patients.

Guns on college property

Those with the appropriate permits can bring concealed weapons to public colleges and universities under this proposal from Representative Chuck Bassey, a Republican from Rocheport.

Currently, UM system regulations prohibit the carrying of firearms on campus in most cases. The policy was recently updated and does not prohibit weapons stored in vehicles.

The legislation would allow institutions of higher education to implement some policies related to firearms, but not if they generally prohibit the carrying, operation or storage of concealed firearms on campus. Colleges and universities cannot impose taxes, fees, or contractual provisions (HB 1751) that prevent or discourage the use of legitimate firearms.

Higher Education Governance

The UM Board of Trustees and other public university governing bodies can add Student Voting Members (HB 1795) under a bill proposed by Windham, Hillsdale Democrat.

Currently, the representative of non-voting students serves on the Board of Trustees. Students at UM System universities will get to vote whether they start appointing student coordinators or maintain a system of non-voting representatives.

The custodians of the students will be appointed by the governor as the other curators and will have the same powers and responsibilities.

Abortion tax

Representative Mike Hafner, a Pleasant Hill Republican, is sponsoring a bill (HB 1874) that would tax the scholarship of any university that is affiliated with an abortion facility, provides medical residencies or fellowships that provide training in performing abortions, or supports facilities where abortions are performed Abortion when the mother’s life is not in danger.

Freedom of the press for students

Students will have the right to freedom of speech and press (HB 1668) in school-sponsored media under a proposal sponsored by Representative Phil Christofanelli, a Republican from St Peters.

The proposal would apply to public colleges and universities as well as high schools.

Colleges and universities can still encourage students to use the Professional Standards for English and Journalism.

Colleges cannot sanction students for exercising freedom of expression unless they publish libelous or slanderous material, violate the law, violate privacy, incite the commission of a crime, or potentially disrupt the functioning of the institution.

Media advisors cannot be fired or punished for refusing to violate students’ rights. Schools and staff also cannot be held responsible for school publications unless they actively participate in the creation of the content.

Currently, student journalists do not have freedom of the press in school-sponsored media, according to a 1988 Supreme Court case involving the Missouri school district and students from Hazelwood South High School.

Advanced Placement Course Credit

A proposal from Representative Chris Brown, a Republican in Kansas City, would require public colleges and universities to award course credit (HB 1683) to students who scored 3 or higher on advanced placement tests.

This story was originally published on Kansas City Beacon.

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