"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

"There is a growing technology of testing that permits us now to do in nanoseconds things that we shouldn't be doing at all." - Dr. Gerald Bracey author of Rotten Apples in Education

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Wednesday, December 29, 2010

A Conundrum for Missouri Legislators: There is No Money for Education "Reform". And it Just Got Worse.

Missouri legislators are unveiling their educational plans for students and they are aware those plans are far reaching and ambitious in this current financial condition:

  • "Educated Citizenry 2020" chairman David Pearson acknowledged there probably is no money to carry out some of the initiatives — at least not in the next few years. As the Missourian reports, federal stimulus money is about to run out. And tax revenues, though finally showing signs of growth, remain far below the levels of just a few years ago. Gov. Jay Nixon's administration is projecting a $500 million to $700 million shortfall for the fiscal year that begins July 1 — a gap equal to almost 10 percent of the state's general revenues.
  • The reforms set forth by the legislators mirror Race to the Top: common core standards, the expansion of charter schools, the termination of teacher tenure and the introduction of merit pay. When these were proposed by DESE last year, these reforms were slated to cost $400 Million. We have questioned where this money was coming from to fund these "reforms" with the severe budget shortfall we are experiencing.
These reforms are educational theories initially set forth by the Federal Government and apparently adopted by the Missouri legislators. There is no plan set forth by the legislators (at least what we can glean at this time) on how it is to be paid for, or with an explanation of how these reforms:
  • promote smaller government;
  • promote more local control;
  • promote more parental rights and involvement;
  • consider charter schools a viable alternative as they will operate under the same mandates as traditional public schools.
It seems another financial reality has been thrown into the legislators' plans. The News-Leader in Springfield reported Missouri gambling revenue for schools is falling this year. The revenues are expected to be $24 Million short because of the poor economy:

Gaming Commission director Roger Stottlemyre says casinos had been expected to produce about $372 million for education this year. That forecast assumed that a 2008 ballot measure removing gamblers' loss limits would result in more revenues.

But Stottlemyre says the slow economy continues to affect casinos, and they're now expected to generate about $348 million for education this year.

A spokesman for Gov. Jay Nixon says he will look for ways to fill that shortfall.

With all due respect to Governor Nixon, he will have to look for ways to fill that gaming shortfall for current expenses, and then he needs to figure out how to fund reforms with no current price tag. I would hazard to guess that by "looking for ways to fill a shortfall" is code talk for a tax increase.

Missouri Legislators were elected this year to be fiscally responsible in a cash-strapped economy. Citizens know the budget must be balanced and cuts will need to be made across the board for programs in all sectors. We understand education must be reformed. However, we deserve to know how much these reforms cost and if they adhere to the Missouri Constitution.

I have no idea on the total cost of these reforms (I don't believe a figure has been publicized), but I believe the stated goals are unconstitutional. How can legislators concerned with state sovereignty agree for Missouri to sign away the right to set its own educational standards? Is a data base which can be accessed by third parties to obtain social and emotional information on a student considered "good education"? How much money will it cost the local districts to provide assessment training that is mandated by the state?

Taxpayers must demand this information (cost of a program, how it is to be funded, and if it is constitutional) from their legislators. This Missouri reform sounds too much like Race to the Top for citizens to accept. The legislators need educational reform that will fit into the state budget and not raise constitutional issues.


  1. I did a little research, I love this, not one of the Senators that signed the Educated Citizenry 2020 report HAVE ANY experience in education. The report is a joke, and as usual in educational policy, this joke will probably drive real policy. Not one teacher testified at the public hearings, and there were only a couple administrators, one from KC and one from St. Louis.

  2. You are absolutely right. Charter schools, common core standards and merit pay are all initiatives being pushed at the federal level. With common core standards, comes new state testing. (Yes, folks, that's right, we are re-inventing the wheel with common core standards. Even worse than that, we are letting the feds tell us what our standards should be). I believe new testing is supposed to take place around 2013. That means designing new tests, printing new tests, educating districts on these tests, all of which entail more man hours (ie tax-payer money). A second point I would have to add is that no teachers were consulted on these intiatives. How sad: to not include the people who have the most affect on the success of our students.


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