In Search of Statutory Authority for Social-Emotional Learning (SEL) Standards
On Tuesday, the State Board of Education rejected DESE’s proposed social-emotional learning standards. It appears the decision was largely influenced by negative comments from the public comment period.
The state board made the right decision, but not necessarily for the right reasons. Don’t get me wrong— public feedback and buy-in, especially on issues such as this, is critical. But the board made the right decision because DESE did not have statutory authority to push these standards.
Back in September, I noted that the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) was pushing the social–emotional learning standards without statutory authority. At the time, DESE claimed Section 161.1050 of the revised statutes of Missouri provided the authority. In the lead up to this week’s state board meeting, DESE has changed its tune. Instead of citing the statute for the “Trauma-informed schools initiative,” it cited Section 161.092. This section of the statutes is labeled, “Powers and duties of state board.” Despite the change, DESE still lacks statutory authority to impose the SEL standards.
Section 161.092 essentially tells the state board what it must do. It must “adopt rules governing its own proceedings,” for example. The state board must also “make an annual report.” Nowhere in the section does it mention “standards,” “social–emotional,” or anything vaguely resembling the work that DESE has been pushing.
Once again, I have posted the full statute below for you to examine. It seems DESE is grasping at straws for authority, but coming up empty.
161.092. Powers and duties of state board. — The state board of education shall:
(1) Adopt rules governing its own proceedings and formulate policies for the guidance of the commissioner of education and the department of elementary and secondary education;
(2) Carry out the educational policies of the state relating to public schools that are provided by law and supervise instruction in the public schools;
(3) Direct the investment of all moneys received by the state to be applied to the capital of any permanent fund established for the support of public education within the jurisdiction of the department of elementary and secondary education and see that the funds are applied to the branches of educational interest of the state that by grant, gift, devise or law they were originally intended, and if necessary institute suit for and collect the funds and return them to their legitimate channels;
(4) Cause to be assembled information which will reflect continuously the condition and management of the public schools of the state;
(5) Require of county clerks or treasurers, boards of education or other school officers, recorders and treasurers of cities, towns and villages, copies of all records required to be made by them and all other information in relation to the funds and condition of schools and the management thereof that is deemed necessary;
(6) Provide blanks suitable for use by officials in reporting the information required by the board;
(7) When conditions demand, cause the laws relating to schools to be published in a separate volume, with pertinent notes and comments, for the guidance of those charged with the execution of the laws;
(8) Grant, without fee except as provided in section 168.021, certificates of qualification and licenses to teach in any of the public schools of the state, establish requirements therefor, formulate regulations governing the issuance thereof, and cause the certificates to be revoked for the reasons and in the manner provided in section 168.071;
(9) Classify the public schools of the state, subject to limitations provided by law and subdivision (14) of this section, establish requirements for the schools of each class, and formulate rules governing the inspection and accreditation of schools preparatory to classification, with such requirements taking effect not less than two years from the date of adoption of the proposed rule by the state board of education, provided that this condition shall not apply to any requirement for which a time line for adoption is mandated in either federal or state law. Such rules shall include a process to allow any district that is accredited without provision that does not meet the state board’s promulgated criteria for a classification designation of accredited with distinction to propose alternative criteria to the state board to be classified as accredited with distinction;
(10) Make an annual report on or before the first Wednesday after the first day of January to the general assembly or, when it is not in session, to the governor for publication and transmission to the general assembly. The report shall be for the last preceding school year, and shall include:
(a) A statement of the number of public schools in the state, the number of pupils attending the schools, their sex, and the branches taught;
(b) A statement of the number of teachers employed, their sex, their professional training, and their average salary;
(c) A statement of the receipts and disbursements of public school funds of every description, their sources, and the purposes for which they were disbursed;
(d) Suggestions for the improvement of public schools; and
(e) Any other information relative to the educational interests of the state that the law requires or the board deems important;
(11) Make an annual report to the general assembly and the governor concerning coordination with other agencies and departments of government that support family literacy programs and other services which influence educational attainment of children of all ages;
(12) Require from the chief officer of each division of the department of elementary and secondary education, on or before the thirty-first day of August of each year, reports containing information the board deems important and desires for publication;
(13) Cause fifty copies of its annual report to be reserved for the use of each division of the state department of elementary and secondary education, and ten copies for preservation in the state library;
(14) Promulgate rules under which the board shall classify the public schools of the state; provided that the appropriate scoring guides, instruments, and procedures used in determining the accreditation status of a district shall be subject to a public meeting upon notice in a newspaper of general circulation in each of the three most populous cities in the state and also a newspaper that is a certified minority business enterprise or woman-owned business enterprise in each of the two most populous cities in the state, and notice to each district board of education, each superintendent of a school district, and to the speaker of the house of representatives, the president pro tem of the senate, and the members of the joint committee on education, at least fourteen days in advance of the meeting, which shall be conducted by the department of elementary and secondary education not less than ninety days prior to their application in accreditation, with all comments received to be reported to the state board of education;
(15) Have other powers and duties prescribed by law.