We had some significant activity in the House this week. Common Core came to the floor, and we reached some surprising results.
In 2009, Governor Nixon jumped quickly onboard and signed a compact among other governors to implement Common Core in Missouri schools. The legislature knew very little about the program until this past year, and what we found did not bring us comfort. Trying to receive information from the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education proved to be a bit more painful than pulling one's own teeth. Finally, after hearing from thousands of parents and concerned citizens, the vast majority of legislators decided we had to take action. In the end, HB 1490 became the vehicle for some positive reforms in Missouri education. The primary provisions as described by the bill's sponsor Rep. Kurt Bahr are:
1. HB 1490 creates a framework to make sure our state standards are written for our State, for our Schools and for our Students
2. Common Core standards are not eliminated for the first two years. Teachers and schools will not have to revamp what they worked on for the last several years.
3. Creates the process to develop Missouri standards and Missouri tests.
4. HB1490 does not pre-determine what our standards will look like in the future.
5. Two boards will be created to make recommendations on what future standards will include.
6. The boards will compose standards for K-5th grade and 6-12th grade
7. The boards will be composed of people who have lived in Missouri for at least three years and have taught in the work group's subject area for at least ten years or have ten years of experience in that subject area.
8. These 10 groups will select one member for each of the two boards (14 people on each board)
a. Teachers Organization (NEA, AFT)
b. School Boards (MASB)
c. Charter Schools
d. School Administrators (MSTA)
e. Speaker of the House of Representatives
f. President Pro Tempore of the Senate
h. Lt. Governor
i. Commissioner of Higher Ed
j. Heads of State-approved baccalaureate level teacher preparation programs
9. Two Parents will be selected by the Speaker of the House and two by the President Pro-Tempore of the Senate
10. Each Board shall hold at least three public work groups (transparency in government).
11. Local school districts and charter schools may adopt their own education standards, in addition to those already adopted by the state, provided the additional standards are in the public domain.
12. Test results for the 2014-15 school year will not count against schools for accreditation purposes.
These provisions allow us to move forward in an open manner, with Missouri values and inputs, with the consideration of educators, taxpayers, parents, and others, as well as support local control of education. This bill received overwhelming bipartisan support, and will hopefully prove to be a significantly positive step in the right direction.
State Board of Education
Also this week, my bill for an elected state board of education received a hearing. Currently, the state board is appointed by the governor with the consent of the senate. This board composition became my focus with Common Core. The governor signed an agreement and the board followed him with implementation. As I spoke with numerous people as well as administrators and teachers throughout the state, their frustration with recent board activity became evident. As a result, I filed a bill to bring a discussion concerning accountability to the taxpayers who foot the bill for Missouri education.
HJR 74/HB 1818 is a constitutional proposal to change the composition of the state board of education. Under this plan, 8 members would be elected, one for each congressional district. There would be a term limit of two, four year terms. Half of the board members would be elected every two years (this reflects how state senators are currently chosen and termed limited). There is also a recall provision: the ability of congressional district voters to hold a special election concerning retention before the expiration of the term in case there is widespread dissatisfaction with a board member.
This bill is in its very early stages, but has begun another discussion concerning the openness of education policy in Missouri. Four witnesses spoke in favor of the bills and only one spoke in opposition.
Among the visitors at the capital this week were UMKC pharmacy students, and elementary students from Trinity Lutheran School in Alma.
It is an honor to serve the 51st District in the Missouri House of Representatives. Each week I will issue a capitol report to keep you informed of activities in Jefferson City and Missouri. Any concerns or issues you might have are of great interest to me. I look forward to your input and thoughts, so please feel free to contact me at any time if you have questions, concerns, or ideas to improve our state government and the quality of life for all Missourians. My telephone number is 573-751-2204 or you may contact me by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you for working with me to make Missouri a great place to live.