MO Legislators care more about own district than State Education as whole - Kyle Kruse comments

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Missouri News Horizon
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo -- A key Missouri House leader says he doesn’t have the votes yet to pass the chamber’s wide-ranging education bill.

*Legislators continue to gravel with one another instead of taking action to fix the funding formula as described in great detail below.  We spoke briefly with New Haven School District Superintendent, Kyle Kruse for a comment about the current bill being proposed.

Kruse said, "The bill contains much-needed fixes for the state formula and for the issues related to the Turner lawsuit.  Other pieces of the bill, though, such as the charter schools piece and the tax credit tuition piece are badly flawed.  The measures are intended to help students in failing districts.  As written, however, the legislation will fail to help those kids and will actually worsen the financial crisis faced by Missouri schools.  It's a shame politicians won't simply allow an up or down vote on each individual part of the bill."

House Majority Floor Leader, Rep. Tim Jones, R-Eureka, said during a press conference Thursday that the majority Republican caucus in the House is divided on House Bill 1735, a piece of legislation that contains all or portions of five major pieces of education legislation.

Jones said he’s not sure what the vote count in favor of the legislation is within the caucus.

“We’re still working on it,” said Jones. “I’m not sure how close or how far we are.”

The bill includes a fix for the state’s foundation funding formula, which divides up state funding among the state’s public schools. The formula is in flux due to the fact that education funding has not kept pace with the formula for several years. Educators in the House say that fix is vital to schools.

But also included in the bill are controversial measures to expand the reach of charter schools beyond St. Louis and Kansas City, funding plans to allow children in unaccredited school districts to attend area private schools, or schools outside their current district, legislation to end teacher tenure, and a plan to help school districts around failing school districts cope with what could be an influx of new students from the failing districts, in response to a court case in St. Louis. The plan is known as the “Turner Fix”.

Jones said the reason all the legislation is grouped together is that all the issues are interrelated. But he said traditional education interests seem to be sabotaging the bill.

“Unfortunately, the interests of the education bureaucracy are still very powerful in this state as they look only at their own districts, and not at the health of the state’s education system as a whole,” said Jones. “We’re sort of having a tough time making that global argument to a caucus of 106 that are from all corners of the state.”

“There isn’t anything in that bill that is tied to the hip of anything else,” said Rep. Joe Aull, D-Marshall, a former school administrator. “I think that the formula fix is being held hostage to get some other things passed, and I just don’t think that’s good business.”

Aull supports changes to the Foundation Formula that are in the bill. He said the fix will keep the formula in its current form, thereby keeping state funding to schools at the same levels as it is this year. He said if the formula is not fixed this legislative session, new calculations in the formula will kick in, resulting in what Aull deems “huge” funding shifts.

Aull would like to see the formula fix come out of the bill for a stand-alone vote, but he knows that is probably not going to happen.

As for Jones, it looks like he’s willing to take the entire bill down if things don’t change, and soon.

“If we don not have the votes, that will be a huge shame because we will have failed to move forward on that issue,” said Jones. “It’s an issue that needs to be addressed. It’s one that’s comprehensive in nature and one that needs to be brought up, if not this year, then definitely in the years to come.”

“The problem is not going away,” he added.

*Portions of this story written by Kyle Quick as indicated.