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A bill in the state Senate aims to have the Missouri K-12 education department establish pilot programs that could eventually bring separate mental and emotional health and agriculture education programs to elementary schools across the state.

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Missouri's Senate fiscal oversight committee voted Monday to pass bills including SS SB 218, sponsored by Sen. Denny Hoskins, R-Warrensburg.

Hoskins' bill would have the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education establish two education pilot programs for elementary schools — one in mental and emotional health and the other for agriculture.

The purpose of both pilot programs, which would begin in the 2020-21 school year, would be to determine whether and how to implement the programs statewide.

At least 16 public elementary schools would be authorized to be selected for either program by DESE. If fewer than 16 schools apply, then DESE "shall select as many eligible schools possible for partnership in the pilot program."

The bill states the local school board for elementary schools selected to be in the pilot programs would "agree to implement and fully fund" the programs for no less than three years, and could employ a teacher to provide either program.

Collaboration between DESE and local school districts would create instructional models. For the mental and emotional health pilot program, the model would provide instruction on "how to set and achieve positive goals, how to utilize coping strategies to handle stress and shall have an increased emphasis on protective factors, such as problem-solving skills, social support and social connectedness through positive relationships and teamwork."

The model for the agriculture education pilot program would "include instruction in an organized classroom, collaborative learning experiences through investigation and inquiry, including laboratory and site-based learning activities, and personal, leadership and career development opportunities."

After three years, DESE would report the evaluated results of the programs to House and Senate committees.

Hoskins' bill was passed unanimously through the fiscal oversight committee by Sens. David Sater, Sandy Crawford, John Rizzo, Lincoln Hough and Mike Cunningham. Cunningham is chairman of the committee.

Hoskins was unavailable for comment Monday after the committee meeting.

Fiscal notes for the bill estimate it would not cost the state government anything to implement the agriculture education program, though the Wellsville-Middletown R-1 school district in Montgomery County and Lee's Summit R-7 school district estimated the bill would cost them — more than $50,000 specifically for Lee's Summit. The Francis Howell and Springfield school districts estimated the bill's proposal would not impact their finances.

It was estimated last week that implementing the mental and emotional health education program would cost the state more than $165,000 in the 2020 fiscal year and approximately $77,000 for each of the following two fiscal years.

DESE estimated the costs would come from curriculum development, as well as putting in place protections such as staff and plans should students self report and seek counseling because of curriculum that would address bullying, youth suicide prevention and awareness.

As of Monday afternoon, the bill is on the Senate's calendar for a third reading. An amendment to the bill to add the mental and emotional health pilot program was added earlier this month after the bill passed out of the Senate's Agriculture, Food Production and Outdoor Resources Committee in February.

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