Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder speaks at a press conference in Jefferson City

As they recognize ‘National School Choice Week,’ legislators have given a sneak preview of the bills they plan to put forward this session

A bipartisan group of nearly a dozen state legislators took turns in the House Lounge at the State Capitol to announce the plans they had for education-related bills this session. Many of the bills are still being drafted. House Majority Floor Leader Tim Jones says he expects two issues to come to the floor soon.

“First, the issue of continuing our tenure system versus moving to a merit-based system for teacher compensation. Secondarily, reviewing, revising, modifying, and potentially ending the policy known as ‘social promotion,” Jones said.

Representative Jamilah Nasheed is one of the legislators planning to bring the social promotion issue to the floor. Nasheed says schools need to be held accountable if they advance students before they’ve learned the basics in their previous grade level.

“You have children graduating… not knowing how to read on a third grade level. That’s an indictment not only on the child, but it’s an indictment on our society,” Nasheed said. “I mean we have to do something drastic to eliminate social promotion here in Missouri. If not, we’re gonna see a handful of our young men and women moving from the educational system to the penal system.”

There are also plans to re-introduce Bryce’s Law, a bill that creates tax credit scholarships for special needs students, which didn’t pass last year.

Finally, Assistant House Minority Leader Tishaura Jones announced plans to expand charter schools.

“This could give the suburban superintendent a chance to open a school dedicated to the arts. Or this could give the rural superintendent the chance to open a school dedicated to agriculture. Or this could give the urban superintendent the chance to open a school for dropout recovery,” Tishaura Jones said.

Lt. Governor Peter Kinder says the situation is dire in many areas of the state.

“In St. Louis and Kansas City we have two distressed school districts. We have failing schools and parents don’t want to wait for a 4 year, 5 year, 8 year, 10 year reform plan. You’re talking about the only chance these children will ever have to get an education, and we’re talking about schools that in too many cases have failed these students,” Kinder said.

AUDIO: Ryan Famuliner reports [1 min MP3]