Lawmakers disagree on how much impact an education bill that has been sent to the Governor will have.
The bill would lift the current two-year wait for the state to intervene in a school district that has become unaccredited. It would let the state replace the failed district’s school board, or allow it to keep operating under new rules and conditions.
The lack of a clause to make it effective before August 28 could mean it will have little impact in Kansas City, where public schools have been unaccredited since January 1, 2012. Since then the Normandy School District in St. Louis County has also become unaccredited.
Other provisions would let teachers in St. Louis be removed for incompetence 30 days after being notified of an accusation of incompetence or inefficiency and would repeal a last in, first out provision for removal of non-certificated teachers in metropolitan districts.
Representative Jay Barnes (R-Jefferson City) carried the bill in the House. He says it gives the state some flexibility in how it responds to a failing district.
“You might have a situation where a school district is struggling but they don’t necessarily need that full-fledged intervention. The state board can decide to do an arm’s length intervention and help them get around the corner. At the same time we put a backstop in place that says if that struggling district is still unaccredited after three years, the state board has to come in.”
Some lawmakers are unimpressed, however. House Minority Leader Jake Hummel (D-St. Louis) noted that its passage followed two failures by the House to pass education reform legislation.
“Interesting that the majority party didn’t want to let us participate in education reform until their bill had died two times, and then stripped down to absolutely nothing. I don’t know if [Speaker of the House Tim Jones] is calling that education reform but I think that’s kind of a joke and we all know there was nothing left in that bill.”
“We talked, and she said to me, ‘Tim, you helped pass significant education reform for the City of St. Louis and for Kansas City and you should be proud of that.’ It was hard to come to that conclusion because I wanted more.”
Nasheed tells reporters the bill’s passage was not about satisfying a Republican agenda. She says it does do significant things for St. Louis.
“[St. Louis Schools Superintendent] Doctor [Kelvin] Adams brought the bill to me and asked me to sponsor it because he wanted the City of St. Louis to be on the same level playing field like every other 551 school districts in the state of Missouri. He shouldn’t have to wait 90 days to get rid of a bad teacher.”
One of the failed House votes on education had been on the addition of principal evaluations to that bill. During that debate, Representative Steve Webb (D-Florissant) gave an impassioned speech urging the legislature to act to pass meaningful reforms. He says he supported the bill that was finally sent to the Governor, but says it leaves a lot to be done.
“It was important for St. Louis City and the Kansas City areas. It still doesn’t address the overall need because those aren’t the only school districts in the state that are having problems … I still believe we missed the mark this year when it comes to education.”
Governor Jay Nixon has not yet acted on that proposal.