"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, May 18, 2011

The End of the Legislative Session and Education Reform Bills

The Missouri Legislative Session is over. The educational bills this year focused on school choice bills and reforms and many were similar to Race to the Top Missouri proposals as well as the Federal Race to the Top proposals:
  • The expansion of charter schools
  • Broadening sponsorship of charter schools
  • The trigger option
  • Open Enrollment
  • The expansion of virtual schools
  • Teacher tenure and merit pay issues
What the bills did not address were:
  • Blocking the implementation of the currently adopted common core standards in math and communication arts
  • Privacy legislation regarding the Longitudinal Data System and information to be required to send to the Departments of Labor and Health and Human Services when those assessments are finished
  • Revisions to the Missouri Constitution taking away the authority of the appointed State Board of Education to sign away the sovereign right to set the educational standards of Missouri students
  • Revising the law to allow the election of State Board members and the Commissioner of Education (currently these positions are appointed by the Governor)
  • Blocking the adoption and implementation of the forthcoming science and history common core standards
Most of the education bills did not pass. The trigger option bill stalled in the House on February 16; but we will have the trigger option regardless. We received approximately $9,000,000 in School Improvement Grant (SIG) money to adopt the same turnaround methods for schools as described in RTTT. So, technically, even though the trigger option bill did not pass, we have it! This is one example of the Federal Government circumventing the legislative process and determining how our state delivers education. We have asked the sponsor and co-sponsors of the trigger option bill if they will refuse the $9,000,000 grant because of the strings, but we did not receive a specific answer from them about their intentions for this Federal money for state education.

Regarding charters, we put out the word on Wednesday about troubling language regarding charter sponsorship. We asked about the possibility of charter sponsorships being "foreign" (not based in Missouri). This would take away local or state ownership of charters and take taxpayer money out of Missouri to out of state companies. The expansion of charters would not necessarily increase the revenues of private Missouri companies if they are foreign owned. The bill did not pass, but this added provision caused some discussion about the bill. Why did we feel the expansion and the possibility of charters to be foreign owned egregious?

We believe charters were a good option IF THEY WERE ALLOWED TO OPERATE AS ORIGINALLY INTENDED. Now they will be under the same common core mandates and assessments as traditional public schools. The innovation is not present as it once was. The solution is to free charters from the common core mandates, make them innovative once again and make sure they are LOCALLY controlled. Parents used to be on the boards. Many of the charters throughout the nation are currently controlled by hedge fund companies and local board involvement is minimal.

The state needs to decide whether or not to accept the federal money and mandates and truly make state educational decisions...or it acquiesces and leaves it up to a Federal agency to make decisions. Other legislatures are crafting legislation to stop the IMPLEMENTATION of the standards. Our legislature has not made any movement toward ridding ourselves of the federal money and strings tied up with common core standards. Our constitutional duty to provide education is being given to the Federal Government and consortias and maybe foreign corporations to deliver education. The Missouri Constitution gives the STATE the power to make educational decisions and it is up to the STATE to deliver these directives; not outside companies or the Federal government. The federal government is not given the power to set educational policy. Where is the outcry of the legislators on the hand over of our educational system to the Federal government and special interests? When did legislators believe a centralized agency could deliver better educational results than a state, or had the authority to do so?

We at MEW believe in education reform. We believe in charters if they are performing and are locally run with Board Members from that particular community. Read Anngie's latest post (Education Debate Needs Reality and Focus) on the question of charters and how they could and should work. We would be tickled to death if we have a charter in St. Louis or Kansas City that performed as well as this charter does in Gwinnett County:

Indeed, every single one of its students met or exceeded state standards on the state English/Language Arts exam in 2010, a rate that surpassed Gwinnett County Schools, which itself is an extremely high-performing district and a recent Broad award winner as the nation’s top urban system.

We don't have that type of charter school performance yet in this state:

For example, in 2010 only 26.9 percent of the 25,000 students in St. Louis Public Schools scored proficient in math. Of the 10,000 students enrolled in city charter schools, 4,100 were in schools that did far worse in math, according to the study. Three of the schools had math proficiency scores of less than 10 percent. They compared even less favorably in communications arts proficiency.

And the study didn’t even consider two St. Louis charters schools that closed their doors in 2010 — schools that enrolled another 1,300 students. These schools didn’t just fail. They collapsed after stubbornly holding on after years of mismanagement.

Some St. Louis charter schools did marginally better than their St. Louis Public School peers. But only two — with a combined enrollment of slightly more than 300 students — had more than 63.3 percent of their students scoring proficient in math. That’s the state proficiency standard for schools.

We need accountability for charters before expanding them.

Now that is a show-me attitude that should be adopted not only for charter school expansion, but to all decisions for education.


  1. I just received a notice today that I have not renewed my Republican Party membership for this year. They asked me if they've done anything wrong! I wrote out on the form that based on what I saw this legislative session in Missouri and the way concerned citizens and patriots were treated when they dared to ask the republicans to stand up for conservative principles, I would not be sending one cent! The total lack of regard for keeping education decisions local to Missouri was unacceptable to me. Too many lawmakers were too busy attempting to make themselves look like victims when faced with tough questions that they had no response to. The republican party has been a HUGE disappointment this session! Someone once told me to be for something not against something! I am for keeping educational decisions closest to those who make the decisions about our local schools. What part of that is too hard to understand! Why is it so difficult to get a single lawmaker to stand up for the children of Missouri? Missouri has set our future generations up for failure! Taxpayers will once again be asked to foot the bill for the newest reforms in our schools as millions of Missouri school children once again become experiments of the federal government's newest gimmick to close the achievement gaps!The next 10 years will produce citizens who can do no more than take online tests and use the correct terminology to answer a question. Missouri should be ashamed of what they are allowing to happen to the state of education!

  2. Anon,

    It's the same all over the country.. Obama tossed out some money as bait and GOP legislatures swarmed on it like flies on road kill. They gave it about as much thought as swarming flies.

    The close relationship between Duncan, Gates, Jeb Bush, Pearson Testing and a few dozen others .. at first glance it seems to meet the accepted if not the legal definition of collusion. It raises ethical questions at best.

    Jeb Bush and Barack Obama together on stage and acting like close friends seems to prove the leadership of both parties can work well together, if it's part of Bill Gates agenda.

    I won't repeat the list in Gretchen's blog, the entire scheme is flawed Constitutionally, it makes toilet paper out of the 4th and 10th Amendments. Large portions of it remain to be approved by Congress. Might be a good time to reming House Members of their Constitutional Pledge.


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