University of Missouri System will allow classroom mask mandate to expire Friday
Missouri Independent, Tessa WeinbergOctober 14, 2021

The University of Missouri System will allow a mask mandate for its four campuses to expire after Friday.

Last month, the Board of Curators extended a rule that face masks be worn in classrooms by a 5-4 vote. That policy was scheduled to end at the close of Friday, and a meeting notice had not been posted this week for the board to convene and renew the rule.

“The temporary indoor mask mandate that was enacted in July and extended in September helped us avoid a potential spike in cases at the beginning of the semester and relieved pressure on local hospitals,” UM System President Mun Choi said in a statement. “The requirements were never intended to be a permanent policy.”

Instead, Choi pointed to “vaccination, personal responsibility and continued vigilance” as what the system will rely on.  System campuses will comply with local public health requirements, and while masks won’t be required, they are still recommended in indoor spaces, especially where social distancing can’t be achieved, according to Thursday’s news release.

In an email from the University of Missouri Thursday notifying faculty and students of the change, the university still encouraged face masks be worn

China becomes the first flashpoint of Missouri GOP Senate primary
Missouri Independent, Jason HancockSeptember 29, 2021

A bipartisan group of Missouri officials hopscotched the state in the summer of 2011 touting a plan to create a $360 million tax credit program to turn St. Louis into a hub for freight flown between China and the Midwest.

Among the most vocal champions of the so-called China hub bill was Eric Schmitt, then a first-term state senator from St. Louis County.

“St. Louis and Missouri must not miss this opportunity,” he said at the time.

But it was not to be.

The deal, which offset the cost of China hub incentives by reducing or eliminating other tax credits, stalled during a special legislative session over disagreements between the House and Senate.

The bill was shelved and the Missouri political world moved on — for a while at least.

A decade later, China hub became the first public skirmish of the 2022 GOP Senate primary.

Now a leading candidate for the seat of retiring U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt, Schmitt faces a much different GOP base than in 2011 — largely, but not exclusively, thanks to Donald Trump.

Missouri failed to protect, locate children missing from foster care, federal agency says
The Missouri Times, Kaitlyn SchallhornSeptember 30, 2021

Missouri’s foster care agency failed to adequately protect or locate children who went missing from foster care or properly provide medical or mental health treatment when located, federal regulators said in a new report Thursday.

The report, from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General, said in the 59 cases of missing children it reviewed, 49 were identified as being at a higher risk of potentially going missing but only seven of those children received services to reduce that risk.

And nearly half of those children were even reported as missing — to local law enforcement officials or the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children — the report found. Additionally, for 1 in 3 children reviewed by federal regulators, required health and safety checks upon their return to foster care were not provided.

One child identified by regulators had been sexually exploited in at least four states while missing, but there was no evidence that the child was reported as missing, the report said.

“The Missouri foster care agency … missed opportunities to identify and mitigate children’s risk for going missing from foster care. Additionally, there is no evidence that once children went missing, Missouri complied with state and federal requirements or effectively used all resources available to assist in locating the children,” the report said. “Further, once the children were located, Missouri appeared to do little to ensure that they would not go missing again, or to ensure that they received supportive services to address trauma they experienced while missing from care.”

If an LGBTQ history exhibit was removed from the Missouri Capitol because it didn’t get pre-approval from a specific board, then every exhibit on display that didn’t get approved must also be removed, House Minority Leader Crystal Quade argued in a letter to state officials on Wednesday.

That would mean, she said, that there would be no exhibits on display.

In the letter addressed to Dru Buntin, director of the Department of Natural Resources, Quade says Gov. Mike Parson’s explanation for why the display was removed was a lie.

Parson said the exhibit was taken down after he received complaints and because it wasn’t approved for display by the board of public buildings. However, the board’s meeting minutes going back five years show it has never discussed museum exhibits, and the former museum director said in 24 years he never had to seek approval from the board regarding exhibits.

Nicole Galloway, the only Democrat who currently holds a statewide office in Missouri, announced Friday she won’t seek re-election in 2022.

In an announcement posted on Twitter, Galloway called serving as auditor “the honor of my life.” She pointed to her husband and three sons, noting that in her decade in public office she has “missed countless family events, little league games and school activities.

“I am ready for the next chapter of service and life with my family.”

Galloway is a Columbia CPA who was appointed auditor by Gov. Jay Nixon in 2015 after the death of Republican Tom Schweich. She won a full term in office in 2018, even as Democratic U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill lost to Republican Josh Hawley.

Questions persist about how the program will function as lawmakers await whether Gov. Mike Parson will sign or veto the legislation

Missouri is on the cusp of creating a program that directs donations funded by tax credits to help parents offset the cost of sending their kids to private school.

Lawmakers laid out the parameters of the program, like who qualifies and where they must reside. But weeks after school choice advocates scored their historic legislative victory, questions persist about how the program will actually work if the bill is signed by Gov. Mike Parson.

Has Missouri hit the transportation funding threshold that triggers the program’s start? Can eligible students use funds to transfer to public schools outside of their district? And how soon will the nonprofits be finalized, rules for applying be set and the program be up and running?