Sen. Pearce answers questions during news conference

Education in 2020 might look much different in Missouri if recommendations by a special legislative committee don’t just sit on a shelf.

The report from the Senate Educated Citizenry 2020 Committee contains several recommendations, some of which have been percolating in the Capitol the past couple of years. It advocates full accreditation of all school districts, with full knowledge that Missouri’s largest two districts, St. Louis and Kansas City, fall short of that goal. It wants test scores to improve, dramatically. A break with the traditional school calendar should be considered, according to the report.

The report suggests changes in teacher pay. Tenure laws should be reviewed and changes considered so that ineffective teachers can be removed from the classroom. It also advocates a more market-driven teacher pay system, including giving teachers the option to trade the security of tenure for a more lucrative merit-pay scale.

The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education would be merged with the Department of Higher Education if the report’s recommendation is accepted. The proposal to merge the two departments has gained momentum as the legislature considers ways to trim the state budget. Advocates of the change say it would provide more than savings. They says the state needs to move toward a more streamlined Kindergarten through college educational system, known nationally as a push toward K-20.

Committee Chairman David Pearce, a Senator from Warrensburg, says he doesn’t want a bad budget year to keep the legislature from considering the recommendations.

“It would be very easy to say, ‘Well, we’re in a financial crisis. This is going to be a bad budget for the next two or three years, so let’s don’t do anything.’ I mean, that’s the easy way out,” Pearce says. “I’m hopeful that by 2014 or ’15 that things will have improved in our state, on our state revenue so things will get back to where we’re accustomed to and where we need to be. But I think there are also policy decisions you can make that don’t necessarily take additional money or that you’re taking money away.”

Pearce understands many such reports too often just get put on a shelf. . .

“We’ve all seen studies. We’ve all seen reports. Some are good and some are put on the shelf to collect dust,” according to Pearce. “I honestly think it’s up to the individuals who come up with the report and the people that read these reports that determine the fate of reports. And if we don’t ever look back on this and if we don’t use this as a tool, it will sit on the shelf and collect dust.”

Pearce says he’s committed to using the report as a blueprint. He says the report can be used for years to come to shape state education policy.

AUDIO: Brent Martin reports [1:30 MP3]