Missouri Legislators Convene for State Education Policy RetreatBy: Julia Cunningham, Associate Policy Analyst, The Hunt Institute
The Hunt Institute was thrilled to continue our work and mission by bringing our state legislators retreat model to Missouri for the first time. During the two-day retreat in Missouri, legislators engaged with state education leaders and national experts to explore pressing issues spanning Missouri’s P-20 education system. The inaugural Missouri Legislators Retreat, held on January 24-25, 2019, welcomed members of the education- and workforce-related committees in the Missouri House of Representatives and the Missouri State Senate for candid conversations about critical issues in Missouri public education.
The catalyst for the Retreat was Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft’s participation in the Hunt-Kean Leadership Fellows program. Upon completing the fellowship program, Secretary Ashcroft believed Missouri’s leaders could benefit from a program that “wasn’t really telling people what to do, but [was] just making sure they had the knowledge to make good decisions.” Read more about the inspiration for the Retreat in the Jefferson City News Tribune.
The Retreat agenda was developed in collaboration with the four Retreat co-chairs: Lieutenant Governor Mike Kehoe, Secretary Jay Ashcroft, Senator Gary Romine (District 3), and Representative Kathryn Swan (District 147). While the agenda covered the entire education continuum, there was a particular emphasis on preparing students for the future workforce and ways in which legislators can support those efforts. All attendees received an Issue Brief prior to the Retreat that offered relevant background information including a snapshot of the Missouri education landscape and context for each session topic.
Hosted on the campus of Lincoln University in Jefferson City, the Retreat began with remarks from a variety of leaders to set the stage for the discussions to come. Secretary Ashcroft, Lincoln University President Jerald Jones Woolfolk, Representative Swan, and Senator Romine highlighted the critical role education plays in securing Missouri’s civic and economic future as well as the importance of bipartisan discussion in education conversations.
The Retreat allowed legislators to hear from a variety of perspectives, both local and national, and engage directly with these resource experts to develop clear action steps towards solving a variety of challenges facing education in Missouri. Conversations touched upon opportunities for strengthening the early childhood workforce, tightening standards for charter school authorizers, and supporting opportunities for school leadership programs to develop more rigorous and innovative certification programs.
Legislators also engaged heavily with school leaders from around the state, including small group discussions in which they were able to hear firsthand about the challenges facing superintendents in building the school leadership pipeline. A staple in all Hunt Institute programming, the Professional Perspectives session allows elected officials to hear directly from educators on their experiences and hurdles. Among the concerns brought up during these conversations were the need for more resources for social-emotional learning and mental health supports as well as more relevant leadership preparation programs that are developed around community needs.
A common theme heard throughout the Retreat was Missouri’s need to build programs at all levels that prepare students for postsecondary education and the workforce. This is currently a major priority for Missouri – Governor Mike Parson has identified workforce pathways as a legislative priority for his administration, and the state has also set a postsecondary attainment goal of 60 percent by 2025. Legislators discussed some of the initiatives that institutions within Missouri and nationwide are exploring to realize these goals, which requires collaboration across all areas of the education pipeline. This coordination could include providing high-quality early childhood education to a wider range of families to allow more parents to enter the workforce or allowing credit flexibility in high schools to enable students to explore career pathways while still meeting necessary academic standards. The Retreat concluded with a discussion of what can be done at the state level to allow for policies and procedures that build tomorrow’s workforce.
Following the Retreat, legislators were provided with Key Takeaways and Policy Considerations which included summaries of each session, action items for legislators to consider, and additional resources and readings. The Hunt Institute looks forward to continuing to build our relationship with the state of Missouri to provides resources and further opportunities to engage with experts in the field of education.
To learn more about the information shared at the Retreat, visit the Missouri Legislators Retreat page.