Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Q&A #1: Is It Time for Elected School Board in SLPS?

Short answer: Not so fast.


It’s been years since St. Louis Public Schools have had an elected school board.  After decades of a slow descent into poor student performance, Mayor Francis Slay put forth a slate of candidates to win control of the board.  He was briefly successful, but there was a tug-of-war across a series of election which he ultimately lost to a slate mostly aligned with the teachers union of the city.

State legislature allowed for a Special Administrative Board.  The governor, the mayor and president of the board of aldermen each appoint one member. The SAB took over about ten years ago.

It has brought stability, and the district’s status has return to being accredited.  Now there’s talk of returning to an elected board.

The civvies I spoke to yesterday are in no hurry to make the transition.  Here’s some of what they say…

First, there is still democratic accountability in the current form.  It’s indirect, but that’s not invalid. The mayor appointing the police chief or the governor appointing a head of departments.  You can still hold your elected officials accountable for their appointments.

Second, in low-turnout elections – which school board elections in St. Louis City have historically been – the teachers’ unions were able to GOTV and their candidates were successful. The concern is that the union’s top priority is teachers, not students and that influences policy in a negative way.

Finally, why change something that’s working?  The district has recovered some ground in the current arrangement.  Why risk that?

Despite these arguments, some acknowledged that from a messaging standpoint, it’s difficult to say that people shouldn’t be allowed to vote (directly) for a school board.  So it may happen eventually.


Another Big Settlement?

There are folks who flip through Casenet pages the way most people surf cable channels.  One such tipster saw this… Lucinda Guthrie V Lawrence Rebman… “The formal notice of dismissal signed by the judge at 4PM Monday. It’s what happens when a settlement is done. This case has run parallel to Gracia Backer’s, which was settled for more than $1 million nearly a year ago. Meanwhile, their common defendant, former Nixon Labor Department Director Larry Rebman, is still pulling down more than $120K a year as a Nixon-appointed administrative law judge in Kansas City…”


Private Pre-K Providers

Last year Sen. Wayne Wallingford and Rep. Kathy Swan fell a few yards short of the finish-line in their attempts to change the state education funding law so that school districts could have the option to contract with private providers for Pre-K. With new dollars triggered by full funding of the formula available to districts in 2019, opportunities for low-income children could expand across the state. The Kirkwood School District has used non-formula dollars for collaboration and finds success through partnership with other providers as explained in this Post-Dispatch article. The Alliance for Childhood Education and Missouri Children’s Leadership Council, now officially Kids Win Missouri (see the website here), will make that a top priority for next session.


Columbia Use Tax

The City of Columbia has some short videos up about the Nov. 7 use tax special election - Prop 1 for Columbia, Prop U for Boone County. This one doesn’t tell you to vote Yes, it just explains why it’s important.  One observer thinks it’s “getting close to the edge of electioneering….”


Richard: No Special for Cuts

Post-Dispatch reports that Senate President Pro Tem Ron Richard, R-Joplin, said Monday that he received no response from Gov. Eric Greitens about his Oct. 20 request for a special session to deal with the reductions.  ‘It doesn’t look like it’s going to happen,’ Richard told reporters in his Capitol office. ‘We had no response. I never got a response.’ The fight over health care costs began in February, when the first-year governor announced a plan to raise the eligibility threshold for those receiving in-home and specialty services. Greitens’ proposal would have reduced health care services to about 20,000 people, but legislative budget writers altered the restrictions so that any cuts would reduce potential services to only about 8,300 people….”


These cuts don’t look great, but they pale next to what could be a true shaming scandal… Tony Messenger writes about former Rep. Rick Stream taking up the cause of poor care at the St. Louis Veterans’ Home. See it here.

From Messenger’s Twitterfeed

The stories of death & neglect being told by multiple family and employees about St. Louis Veterans Home are heartbreaking and documented.

Attn: @EricGreitens: More than 100 vets, families and employees painting damning picture of care at St. Louis Veterans Home. This is scandal

Employee said administrator ordered cleanup at Veterans home before my visit last week and stationed employees with walkie talkies to warn.


Prop P Push

Mayor Lyda Krewson’s email blast yesterday is the latest move in St. Louis City’s final push for a sales tax increase for police and fire fighter pay…

Proposition P is a half-penny sales tax to provide a $6,000 raise for each police officer and firefighter; $1.5 million for the Circuit Attorney's Office and approximately $1 million for more recreation programs, $1 million for more summer jobs, $1 million for mental health workers, and $675,000 for the demolition of derelict buildings.

 Last April, St. Louis County passed a half-penny sales tax for public safety. The Post-Dispatch has reported that the county officers will receive up to a 30% salary increase. Most of us would at least consider changing jobs for a 30% raise. The starting salary for a St. Louis County officer is expected to be $52,000 compared to $42,000 for a City police officer.

 Our residents and businesses deserve to have a competitively paid police and fire department. If we don't, our best will leave, and we will have even more difficulty hiring good, new officers. We are already 107 officers short….


St. Louis Police Officers Association PAC amended their committee to support Prop P. See it here.



While a gas tax increase hasn’t met with much enthusiasm in Missouri, it’s kicked around as a possibility to fund Trump’s infrastructure plans.  See it here.


The State board of Education meets today.  Tim Sumners will be sworn in.  He will be the fourth Greitens appointee to join the eight-member.


A Halloween message from Pettis County Board of Elections here.


New Committees

Nate Walker formed a candidate committee (Www.Natewalker4senate.Com) to run for Senate 18 as a Republican.

Move Ballot Fund, a PAC, was formed.  Its treasurer is Martin Rafanan.

Crestwood Police Officers’ Association PAC was formed.  Its treasurer is Adam Bless.


Lobbyists Registrations

Kristin Czubkowski added Development Associates Smithville LLC, KDM 4400 LLC, KC Executive Park LLC, Hope City Fellowship, and 46 PC Investors LLC.

Thomas Robbins added Nationwide Mutual Insurance Company.

Kurt Schaefer added OA for Welltok Inc.

Bruce Holt deleted BWH Governmental Solutions LLC, and District Council # 58 IUPAT.


$5K+ Contributions

MBA River Heritage Region PAC - $6,366 from Sterling Bank.

Missouri Democratic State Committee - $10,000 from Eastern Missouri Laborers Educational and Benevolent Fund.

Committee for a Healthy Community - $150,000 from American Heart Association.



Happy birthday to former Rep. Paul Quinn.