"I know no safe depository of the ultimate powers of the society but the people themselves; and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them, but to inform their discretion by education. This is the true corrective of abuses of constitutional power." - Thomas Jefferson 1820

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Monday, November 15, 2010

Question to DESE and State Legislators: Is there an Ethical Issue with Educational Lobbying Organizations Setting Educational Policies?**Updated!

Check out this copy of the Columbia Tribune's article announcement of DESE's "Vision for Public Education". According to the reporter, this was an important day for DESE, the Missouri Association of School Administrators (MASA) and Missouri School Boards' Association (MSBA). "Transformational change" is to come to Missouri schools according to one spokesperson:

“One thing we will not tolerate is business as usual,” MSBA President Dave Wright said. “We are dedicated to developing ideas that will literally transform public education in our state.”

What has happened to all that excitement and pride for the program? DESE had a pdf file on its website dated August 30, 2010 entitled "Missouri Education 2020 entailing the vision for Missouri schools". This is what currently appears when you search "Vision for Missouri public schools"; a link labeled Missouri Education 2020 appears:

File Format: PDF/Adobe Acrobat - View as HTML Aug 30, 2010 ... Our Vision. Missouri public schools: the best choice . . . the best results! Our Mission. To guarantee the superior preparation and ... dese.mo.gov/news/2010/documents/Nicastro_2020.pdf

DESE loved the plan in August...it was labeled "the best choice...the best results!" This vision was to "guarantee superior preparation". Try to view it as HTML. It's been pulled by DESE. It is no longer listed on their website. Why would DESE pull the link? What's happened to those promises to the public?

Here is a press release from MASA and MSBA about the intent of these two groups to craft a plan for public education from the MSBA site (we have a copy in case it gets pulled as well). Note the first paragraph:

More than 100 school board members and superintendents gathered in Jefferson City on August 30 to begin a project designed to define the vision for public education in Missouri for the coming years. The "Vision for Missouri Public Education" project is a joint effort of the Missouri School Boards' Association and the Missouri Association of School Administrators. Its goal is to develop a plan outlining a vision for the state's public schools by October 2011.

The MSBA and MASA are defining the vision for public education for the coming years. These two groups are lobbying groups. Here is information on MASA (we'll focus on MSBA in subsequent posts):

The Missouri School Administrators Political Action Committee (MSAPAC) was originally formed in 1991 and now includes the:
  • MAESP (Missouri Association of Elementary School Principals)
  • MASA (Missouri Association of School Administrators)
  • MASSP (Missouri Association of Secondary School Principals)
  • MCCTA (Missouri Council of Career and Technical Administrators)
Here are MASA's legislative priorities for 2010-11:


The platform states we are in a revenue shortfall, but Missouri needs to not cut any money from public education during a recession, rather, it needs to address shortfalls via these venues:

MASA is committed to working in collaboration with other educational groups, the Governor, the General Assembly, and DESE, to seek revenue solutions for long-term sustainable funding for public education in Missouri. We believe the state should consider revenue enhancements such as a sales tax on Internet sales, tobacco taxes, alcohol taxes or a general sales tax to provide long-term funding for Missouri public schools. We also firmly believe that policy makers much do everything possible to eliminate any further erosion of local property taxes which are vital to preservation of basic educational services.

MASA, a lobbying group which protects its own special interests, is developing the educational blueprint for Missouri children. It wants to raise taxes to pay for this vision. It is important to remember through this discussion and subsequent discussions on "Vision for Missouri Public Education", MASA and MSBA are lobbying groups. Why should lobbyists be crafting legislation and why has DESE acquiesced its duties to lobbyists?

Let's look further into these legislative priorities and note what MASA opposes. We'll list those items in terms of what it opposes and then what it supports:
  • Opposes: Diverting state funds from the public schools by any means including tax credits/vouchers; translation: no school choice for parents and taxpayers via tax credits/vouchers, even though more and more taxpayers and parents are demanding school choices for their children;
  • Opposes: Mandating open enrollment of students; translation: students must stay in a failing school system if it is within their district boundaries;
  • Opposes: Eroding public school funding by expanding Charter schools; translation: no support for Charters even as public schools are continuing to produce flat achievement scores;
  • Opposes: Mandating programs without appropriating the necessary funds to implement and sustain the programs; translation: mandates must be funded with additional new taxes (see above);
  • Opposes: Imposing property tax reductions, freezes or limits; translation: even if your house falls dramatically in price, your taxes owed on that devalued house would stay level or not go below a preset amount;
  • Opposes: Transforming the early childhood special education program from a required program to a voluntary program; translation: early childhood special education programming should remain as a requirement.
MASA is a lobbying group and has no legislative power. Remember however, this is one of the two groups presenting the plan to DESE, the Governor, and the legislators for adoption. Who is paying MASA and MSBA for the work necessary to draft such a far reaching plan?

Note the last sentence of this press release:

Information on the progress of the "Vision for Missouri Public Education" project will be posted on www.visionforMOpublicschools.org.

Don't bother to try to access that site. It's been pulled from several sites on the Internet the last several days. But many of us have complete copies of information from the site. We'll be posting excerpts from this plan and the seven areas of transformation during the next few weeks and months. Here is a description of the planning groups:

The board members and administrators involved in the project are divided into seven groups: Teaching, Learning and Assessment; Supports for Early Learning and Student Success; Human and Organizational Capital; Governance, Leadership and Accountability; Climate, Culture and Organizational Efficacy; Financial Resources; and Physical Resources.

We'll write more in the next few weeks and months about MSBA, MASA, the participants in the plan, and the disappearance of the documents DESE was so proud of in August 2010. Perhaps one of your superintendents is on one of the seven planning committees and you can contact him/her on exactly what this transformation will entail for children and taxpayers since we can't access it on the internet any longer.

If these groups are so proud of the transformation they are planning for your children, why is this information being pulled from public scrutiny? It started out with such celebration and has now disappeared. What is happening in Columbia and Jefferson City between DESE, MASA and MSBA? Do the legislators know that policies are being drafted by lobbyists to be presented to DESE, the governor and the Legislature for adoption? Are there conflicts of interest in this plan by the groups crafting this "transformational vision"?

We don't know the answer to these questions, but we'll let you in on their vision for Missouri public education. Follow along with us the next few weeks and months as we examine MASA's and MSBA's plans. We'll publish the policies of these groups and you can make the decision if you think it is in the best interest of children and taxpayers; or the lobbyists themselves.

**Update as of 11:05 PM. I found the vision plan posted on the DESE website. It has apparently been put back up after being taken down from the Internet on Friday and Monday. It had been previously password protected or the URL had disappeared. Check out this site from DESE and I hope you can access it:


You can now read for yourself the vision.


  1. Why does it always seem that those in power never have to play by the rules? Kinda makes you wonder what they have in store for the kids with their "Vision" and the taxpayers with their "let's all feed endlessly at the public trough" philosophy. Folks, this is all the great work of a socialist NEA agenda and you should all be very, very afraid of the lack of transparency with which they work.

  2. After listening to Jane Cunningham speak last week, I think these groups will find a disinterested legislature in MO if their plan opposes charter schools, vouchers and open enrollment. MASA's and MSBA's plans seem to mirror the NEA's goals just a little too much. The unions spent a lot of money in MO to get their people elected and by and large they failed. Now they must deal with the folks the people elected. Let's make sure those folks know how the people feel about this plan.


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