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.