The Missouri Chamber of Commerce plans to be more aggressive in the coming legislative session on education issues.

Assistant General Counsel Richard Moore says the Chamber’s members have expressed issues with the education available to the state’s workforce. “They want a qualified workforce that are ready to work when they walk in the door, and we’re seeing more and more times when that is not the case.” With that in mind, Moore says the Chamber felt it was time to increase its involvement in education issues, but he adds the organization is not saying the state’s schools are failing.

Vice President of Governmental Affairs Tracy King says the focus of the Chamber’s agenda is on local choice. “It’s not so much that we’re trying to take things away from, and we support the education system and the teachers in the state. It should be more of a local decision than a statewide decision.”

The Chamber supports expanding charter schools statewide and full funding for all levels of education, eliminating the teacher tenure system and replacing the tiered pay system for teachers with a merit system.

Of a merit-based pay system, the Chamber takes no position on how merit should be established. Moore says, “We don’t believe that we’re in the place to micromanage how that happens. We believe that the local districts should have that authority to determine what’s going to work best in that local district.”

On the issue of tenure, Moore says, “We think that some teachers sit on their laurels after years and we believe that if a local district chooses to have teacher tenure or enter into multi-year contracts with teachers we believe that that is appropriate, but as a statewide policy we don’t believe that that’s in the best interest of students.”

The Chamber ties the issue of expanding charter schools to that of accreditation. Moore explains, “Our policy basically says that statewide charter should be available to school districts that are failing our students. If the district is provisionally accredited or unaccredited, then there needs to be choice in that community.”

Moore says there are some things the business community can share with education to improve its performance. “We’re not here to say education can be run exactly like a business, but there are best practices.”