The University of Missouri has a graduation success rate (GSR) of 84% for all sports, up from 81% a year ago in a report released by the NCAA. That rate ranks Mizzou third in the Southeastern Conference, behind only Vanderbilt (1st – 91%) and Alabama (2nd – 85%). Missouri led the SEC in five different sports, including men’s golf (100%), women’s golf (100%), women’s swimming & diving (100%), tennis (100%), and wrestling (67%). Mizzou’s football team had a 73% rate, while the men’s basketball team came in at 67%, both of which ranked as fifth-best in the SEC. This is the sixth consecutive year that MU’s overall GSR rate has increased, and it also marks the third straight year in which Mizzou had at least four programs with a perfect GSR.
The House has given initial approval to a very stripped down bill dealing with teacher layoffs.
Language dealing with teacher tenure was stripped out of the proposal. What remains is a change to what is often called “last in, first out.” The proposed new policy would require administrators to decide what teachers to cut based first on performance, as well as training and certification, but not on salaries or seniority.
Elementary and Secondary Education chairman, Republican Scott Dieckhaus (R-Washington), says the bill, HB 1526, was the result of a compromise within his caucus. “They had some concerns about some of the other provisions that were in the bill and I asked them, if we were able to work some of those provisions out between now and next session and work on those down the road but press on with the (last in, first out) issue, if they could be supportive. Clearly there was a large number of my colleagues that are supportive of that.”
The vote on the bill was close; 80-78 on perfection. To advance to the Senate it will have to get 82 votes on third reading. That vote will likely happen today.
After a month without action, some movement might happen this week on a comprehensive education bill in the House.
Majority Floor Leader Tim Jones (R-Eureka) and Elementary and Secondary Education Committee Chairman Scott Dieckhaus (R-Washington) both suggest the package sponsored by Dieckhaus might pass out of the House Rules Committee this week. The bill includes fixes for the Foundation Formula and the Turner Decision.
House Democrats are critical of the bill’s inclusion of tuition tax credits, otherwise referred to as “passport scholarships.” Dieckhaus says they are needed to let the legislation benefit all of the students in the St. Louis City public schools.
He says if surrounding St. Louis County school districts cap capacity at 8,300 students, that won’t be enough. “We need to serve 15,740 students … the passport scholarships could help us serve an additional 8,000 students, so we can actually serve that full number of students.”
Dieckhaus says that language is more specific to St. Louis, while a different approach is needed for students from Kansas City-area schools. A proposal that is being considered, but has not yet been added to the bill, is based on what has worked in New Orleans schools. “The top performing schools became the New Orleans Parish School District, and the rest of the schools were chartered and they’ve seen really tremendous progress by doing that and we’re wondering if we can replicate that.” Dieckhaus says such a plan might be considered when the bill reaches the floor.
His proposal also includes scaled back language dealing with teacher tenure. Seniority-based layoffs were removed, decisions about salaries are returned to local school boards, and tenure is eliminated for teachers hired for the 2013-14 school year or later.
State lawmakers are faced with several challenging education issues in the young legislative session. Facing them first is the question of whether to deal with those issues together, or individually.
The school funding foundation formula was not designed to work when not fully funded. That is at the top of the list along with a “Turner fix,” addressing how to deal with students being transferred from failing schools to neighboring districts.
House Speaker Steven Tilley (R-Perryville) has said he wants to package those with other issues that could include enacting tax credits to support private school attendance and repealing teacher tenure protections. “I think the only thing worse than putting them together is to continue to shuffle kids through failing schools, which is what we’ve done for now a decade or more.”
Tilley adds, “Since I’ve been here for seven years the opposition to trying to trying to step outside the box and try something new has been tremendous. These same people that have been fighting us tooth and nail to try and challenge the status quo now want us to come in and fix the problem for them.”
The Speaker says the House and Senate education committee chairs agree with the idea of bundling issues. The Chair of the Joint Education Committee wants to keep them separated, however.
Representative Mike Thomson (R-Maryville) says his bill to lay out how education money should be distributed when the foundation formula is not fully supported died in the Senate last year because too much was attached to it. “What happened last year is that some of the other issues entered in and there were some people in the Senate that said, ‘Hey listen, we’re not letting anything go through unless we get what we want.’ The Turner Fix was one of those things.”
Thomson says the student transfer issue and the foundation formula are two unrelated items. “That’s what is so frustrating in this place is that we have different issues that we need to deal with and to hold a bill that is so necessary for the survival of our schools hostage because of personal biases or political purposes, to me, is absurd.”
Thomson says he is not talking about any individual person or cause.
House Minority Leader Mike Talboy (D-Kansas City) says he looks at the education questions much like Speaker Tilley has looked at economic development issues, which Tilley says he wants to deal with individually after they failed in the special session. Says Talboy, “We have certain aspects of education that have been tried, have failed, as far as votes on the floor.”
Talboy says discussing other proposals is healthy, but, “if you know that there is significant and majority opposition to certain things, that becomes where you’re going. There’s an insistence on making sure that’s there even though there’s this rampant opposition.”
Discussion of education issues will ramp up quickly this week, with meetings scheduled for the House Committees on Education Appropriations and Elementary and Secondary Education, the Senate Education Committee and the Joint Committee on Education.
Representative Mike Lair’s (R-Chillicothe) committee heard a presentation from a the Executive Director of the staff for the Joint Committee on Education, Stacy Preis. She outlined the formula that is in place now, how it replaced its predecessor, and what some issues are that lawmakers should note when considering changing it.
She explained the current formula is based on adequately funding schools, with an “adequacy target” based on the spending practices of successful schools. That target has held steady since the new formula phase-in began in 2006, but it could change next year. “There is language in the statute right now that says if funding is insufficient to fully fund the formula, that adequacy target…may be adjusted to accommodate appropriations.”
She says that provision was not intended to accommodate multi-million dollar shortfalls. It was meant to make minor adjustments for differences between projection and actual revenues.
It presents an issue if the formula is not fully funded next year. “If the hold harmless calculation shows you’re funded as hold harmless, that adequacy target has no impact on you at all. You’re funded under your old money,” Preis said. This would mean hold harmless districts would receive their entire payment amount, while those that are funded through the formula might see a cut.
Joint Education Committee Chairman Mike Thomson (R-Maryville) says that means some hold harmless districts are less inclined to see a change in the formula. “I think they’re saying ‘hey, we’ve been taking a hit. Let’s let that thing go over the cliff…let’s get what we can.’ I don’t mean that critically…but everybody’s looking for the best dollar that they can get.”
Thomson says uncertainty over the adequacy target means that formula districts and hold harmless districts have reason to fear the outcome.
He outlined for the House Committee his bill that would not change the formula, but would lay out how money would be distributed if it is not fully funded. “There’s nothing in the statutes…that says if we do not fully fund the formula, how do we distribute the money?”
His bill would take effect next year, when the formula would be fully implemented. “This is the last of the seven-year phase-in period. Right now our schools are being funded 86 percent on a new formula, 14 percent on the old formula, and next year it will be 100 percent new formula.”
The same bill died in the Senate last year, Thomson says because other issues were attached to it, such as the Turner fix. This year he wants to see it go through the process unbridled, contrary to the wishes of others in his caucus including House Speaker Steven Tilley who has said he wants to bundle education issues together.
Thomson says, “We think that it’s even more essential this year that this bill passes because now we have even a bigger difference between where we are and where we should be on the fully funded formula. That means…some of our schools are even taking a bigger hit that they shouldn’t be taking.”
The House Committee is scheduled to meet again Tuesday, January 17 at 1 p.m. and Wednesday, January 18 at 2 p.m. Public testimony will be taken at those hearings.
Representative Thomson will present his bill before the House Elementary and Secondary Education Committee Wednesday, January 18 at 8 a.m.