For the second time, an attempt by House leadership to pass education reform legislation has failed in a late night vote.
Changes were proposed to Senate bill 125 sponsored by Senator Jamilah Nasheed (D-St. Louis City) that would lift the two-year wait before the state can intervene in a failing school district to add language to institute principal evaluations.
The plan was carried in the House by Representative Jay Barnes (R-Jefferson City), who said he would rather have offered all the provisions in SB 125.
“What I’m going to attempt to do tonight is to take a part of a bill … and we’re going to amend it down to a [principal evaluations] which I believe can and should pass this body because it got 104 votes when it was offered earlier this session as an amendment onto a bill.”
The proposal inspired impassioned comments from lawmakers including Representative Steve Webb (D-Florissant), who supported the bill.
“We’re failing. We’re failing. And while we’re talking about putting letter grades on schools, which I think we should do, let’s put a letter grade on this legislature. It’s been an ‘F.'”
Representative Vicki Englund (D-St. Louis) says the principal evaluation proposal would not have allowed school districts to do anything they can’t already.
“A lot of the things that we debate are already tools in the toolbox. It’s a matter of how the school board members choose to use them or don’t choose to use them, and there are things that make school districts different. For example, the funding level that each school district receives, in my opinion, greatly impacts the quality of the education that the children receive.”
After a close vote adopted the amendment to implement principal evaluations, the House voted down its substitute for the bill 76-82, after leaving the board open the full 30 minutes possible as supporters tried to swing votes. The Senate bill has been laid aside on the House Calendar and could be taken up again and passed in the form in which it left the Senate before the session ends next week.
The education discussion turned what had been a night of at time jovial debate by lawmakers who had just returned from a social event into a somber and tense debate.
Senator Nasheed, who had been talking to lawmakers from the side floor galleries of the House throughout the debate, left the chamber for a time after Representative Keith English (D-Florrisant) shouted at her to quit threatening people. English was a “nay” vote on the bill.
When House Majority Floor Leader John Deihl (R-Town and Country) moved for the previous question, to cut off debate and force a vote on the bill, Representative Genise Montecillo (D-St. Louis) stormed off the floor. Montecillo, often vocal on education issues, had been standing to speak throughout the debate but was not recognized to.
The House in April voted down a teacher performance evaluation proposal (see the story on that bill).
AUDIO: Hear Steve Webb’s floor remarks, 5:47