Gov. Jay Nixon today visited Greene County to sign legislation to help protect the health and safety of Missouri's children, including strengthening child care in the state by implementing a new set of quality indicators for child care providers. The Governor signed the bills in Battlefield at Little Angels Learning Academy, a division of the Education Institute Inc.
"The health and safety of our children is of paramount importance, and I appreciate the General Assembly working together in a bipartisan way to get this critical legislation to my desk," Gov. Nixon said. "These quality indicators will give parents the tools and information they need to choose the right child care provider for their family."
Under Senate Bill 869 and House Bill 1831, the Missouri Department of Social Services will work with stakeholders to establish a transparent set of quality indicators for child care providers. These quality indicators will help parents know if a particular child care provider has met certain criteria, including state licensure, health and safety requirements, use of curricula, additional staff training and any history of violations. The Department will implement these indicators in the fall of 2015.
"This legislation has been in the works for many years, and at times, seemed unlikely to ever make it through the General Assembly," Gov. Nixon said. "In the end, it passed both chambers nearly unanimously -- a testament to what can be accomplished when folks come together and put aside their differences to promote the public good."
Due to changes in federal regulations, implementing quality indicators will also ensure that Missouri families will continue to receive more than $100 million annually in federal funding to help offset the cost of child care. In addition, the two bills require the Department of Social Services to establish:
A publicly available website with information pertaining to health and safety requirements, inspections, and any history of violations by child care providers who receive state or federal funds;
A hotline for parents to submit complaints about child care providers;
Requirements that providers who care for four or fewer children comply with safety, fire, health and building codes, be tested for tuberculosis on a schedule required for employees in licensed facilities, and be subject to unscheduled on-site monitoring; and
Rules and regulations to define pre-service training requirements for providers and their employees.
The Governor signed three additional pieces of legislation today related to protecting children, including:
House Bill 1614, which adds dyslexia to the special needs definition under Senate Bill 17 ("Bryce's Law"), signed by Gov. Nixon in 2013;
House Bill 1092, which modifies several provisions pertaining to child protection and welfare, including extending the deadline for the Missouri Children's Division to complete an investigative report from 30 to 45 days; and
Senate Bill 532, which allows relative caregivers to consent to medical treatment and educational services for a child with whom they live.
The Governor also signed seven bills related to public education, while vetoing one bill that would have eroded local control of school districts, and another that would have raised the cap on certain tax credits. Gov. Nixon signed:
Senate Bill 701, which creates the Farm-to-School Program within the Department of Agriculture to provide schools with locally grown agricultural products for schools;
Senate Bill 719, which modifies laws related to school purchases and leasing agreements;
Senate Bill 723, which increases the cap on the amount of revenue bonds that may be issued by the State Board of Public Buildings under its general bond issuance authority;
Senate Bill 782, which allows an individual with certification from the American Board for Certification of Teacher Excellence (ABCTE) to obtain teacher certification in the area of elementary education;
Senate Bill 907, which allows the Carthage School District to perform a one-time transfer of unrestricted funds in the 2014-2015 school year from the incidental fund to the capital projects fund in order to complete student safety-related projects;
House Bill 1189, which allows a student to fulfill one unit of academic credit with a district-approved agriculture or career and technical education course for any communication arts, mathematics, science, or social studies unit required for high school graduation;
House Bill 1206, which removes the expiration date on the authority of certain public universities to enter into long-term lease agreements for university property without approval from the General Assembly; and
House Bill 1689, which modifies the laws regarding early childhood education programs and the funding formula for school districts that participate in the USDA Community Eligibility Option.
Gov. Nixon vetoed Senate Bill 523, which he said represented the latest effort by the General Assembly to erode the ability of local school officials to determine what is best for their school districts, students and staff. The Governor's full veto message for Senate Bill 523 can be found here.
Gov. Nixon also vetoed House Bill 1132, which would increase the caps on three current tax credit programs. This would grow those expenditures without making them subject to appropriation or revenue-neutral, and make it more difficult to fund education and other core governmental services.