"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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Friday, January 6, 2012

Look Who's On the Guest List at the MO Legislature

Missouri may have scored another first this week.  It was announced on St Louis Today and on the StudentsFirst website that Michelle Rhee's organization, StudentsFirst, was invited to Missouri by a bi-partisan group of legislators to help craft our state's new education legislation.  This is the first time anyone can remember that a lobbying group was actually invited to come influence the legislative process.
StudentsFirst announced on its website today that it will begin pushing for laws in Jefferson City to further organization’s mission — one that centers around school choice and accountability, rewarding teachers based on performance, and eliminating wasteful school spending. The group’s plans include lobbying legislators and possibly giving financial support to certain candidates. The organization is in 11 states, according to its website, and recently added Iowa to the list.
Education is expected to be a hot topic in Jefferson City this year.  The Post Dispatch reported that House Speaker Tilley has been shaking up the Elementary and Secondary Education Committee, adding members who have a noted lack of education experience, to help pave the way for this new legislation.  Michelle Rhee is known for bringing a business approach to education, so having more business oriented people on this committee may mean a more receptive audience to StudentsFirst's message.

Given what was reported in the Post, we can get a glimpse of what the future of education in Missouri might look like. Those added to the joint committee on Elementary and Secondary Education include people who believe in; eliminating the state constitutional ban on giving public money to private schools, tax credits to pay for tuition at private schools, school choice, performance pay and phasing out teacher tenure.

The Post reported that these new members include:
  •     Rep. Dwight Scharnhorst, R-St. Louis County, has long championed legislation establishing tuition tax credits to pay for autistic children to attend private schools.
  •     Rep. Jay Barnes, R-Jefferson City, last year proposed repealing the constitutional ban on using state money to support religious schools.
  •     Rep. Doug Funderburk, R-St. Peters, last year sponsored a bill allowing home-schooled students to participate in public high school sports.
  •     Rep Kurt Bahr,  R-St. Charles
  •     Rep. Mike Leara, R-St. Louis County
  •     Rep. Mike Cierpiot, R-Lee's Summit
  •     Rep. Ira Anders, D-Independence
  •     Rep. Chris Carter, D-St. Louis
StudentsFirst has a goal of identifying and keeping good teachers which, to them, means the elimination of the role of seniority in teacher layoffs, which are expected with the continued down economy.  They believe, "At least 50 percent of teachers' and principals' evaluations should be based on how much academic progress their students make."  As we saw in New York, principles aren't too happy about having their jobs on the line based on student performance. Wonder how that will go over in Missouri.

StudentsFirst was invited to participate in the legislative process.  I guess the rest of the Missouri taxpayers who have their own wish list for education will just have to be party crashers.

With the DESE agreement to adopt Common Core Standards and the associated fiscal hit that will add to the state's education budget just for implementation, this committee has its work cut out for them.  They must find a way to identify and keep top teachers, who will need to be retrained on a new set of standards, that will also require a complex computer based data system to offer continuous data flow on student and teacher performance, while also paying for all the additional and ancillary administrative staff that will be needed to oversee the federal and state reporting requirements so that everyone may be assured their tax dollars are being spent wisely. This should be done with little to no impact on direct student funding of education. In addition, they are going to overhaul a system modeled on the assembly line to make it flexible enough to meet to every parent's needs while still attempting to maximize the economies of scale. The phrase about a fool's errand comes to mind. I wish them luck and will be watching closely to see what comes out of this committee.

1 comment:

  1. I am not a legislator on the education committee, but I am married to a man who is. I know my husband would be thrilled to have your group come and share your experience and opinions with the committee. With the help of all interested parties, I am hopeful that this new education committee can come to some solutions, because our current educational system is failing many students while helping big union bosses. From what I have seen, I think this new committee will actually be a positive for your group. There are quite a few on the committee who would be extremely receptive to your ideas and solutions. In fact, I believe there is a bill being put forward to keep the governor from accepting Common Core Standards. I look forward to hearing more in the future.


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