Monday, June 23, 2014

Chappelle-Nadal to School Board: DESE “Guidance” Flawed

Sen. Maria Chappelle-Nadal, who also sits on the University City School Board, sent a letter to school board members of districts in her state senate district


To: School Board Members, School Districts of the 14th Senatorial District

Re: Recent memoranda from DESE


As a school board member myself, I understand how valuable information can be when dealing with DESE and the unchartered territory we find ourselves with the new Normandy accreditation status, or lack thereof… 


Last week the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education's (DESE) sent a letter of "guidance" regarding transfer students to school districts.  The letter and attachments follow.  Parts of the communiqué use the words "recommending", "Guidance" and "Optional".  Other parts use the words "shall", "will" and "no longer eligible".  No statutory authority exists for any of these changes. Most troubling were the numerous misstatements of law and outright recommendations to break the law. Below are the major problems I discovered during my review.  I am currently preparing a request for an Attorney General's Opinion, as well as a request for an inquiry by the Joint Committee on Administrative Rules.  Moreover, I will be consulting with staff further to see if legal action via the courts is necessary or warranted…


1 - The letter/attachments from DESE are legally meaningless.  At best they are suggestions, at worst they are a directive to violate state law. DESE refers to the Attachment B (Guidance for Student Transfers from Unaccredited Districts to Accredited Districts) as “Guidance” and has informally called them non-binding guidance or non-regulatory guidelines…


2 - Rulemaking process - if a department says "do something" or "how to do something" - it is a rule.  Rules have a legal process requiring public input, notifications and other requirements to protect the public from the whims of the person writing the memo.  DESE wrote a very nice letter, but it has no legal ramifications as they did not follow the rule making process…


3 - DESE is actively advocating breaking the law.

a)  Statute says transfers may occur if a school district "does not maintain an accredited school pursuant to the authority of the state board of education to classify schools as established in section 161.092" (Section 167.131).  This part of the sentence makes it clear that the accreditation is done by the State Board of Education and references section 161.092, which, in part, states that “The State Board of Education shall…(9) Classify the public schools of the state…establish requirements for the schools of each class, and formulate rules governing the inspection and accreditation of schools preparatory to classification…”


DESE says no transfers because Normandy has no accreditation status. (Normandy is still not "an accredited school" based on the State Board of Education classification via MSIP).  So is DESE giving legal advice, or advocating lawlessness?


b)  Statute provides a formula to calculate tuition for transferring students. DESE provides a very different formula.


c)  DESE states transferring students "should have attended the unaccredited school district".  (Attachment B).  "Should" is ambiguous, and "unaccredited" is used without reference to the newly introduced term 'without an accreditation status'.  Statute does not require this.


d)  DESE states transfers who didn't attend Normandy in 2012/13 school year can no longer transfer.  Statute provides no authority to do this.


e)  DESE purports to limit any more transfers out of Normandy, a school with no accreditation status. Statute states that transfers may occur when students are not provided an accredited school.


4 - DESE has a conflict of interest.  Are they giving orders as DESE, or as the de facto school board of Normandy?  Are they acting in the best interest of DESE, or the best interest of Normandy, or the best interests of the students?..


5 - As a side note, a district without status cannot qualify for the extra monies appropriated in HB 2002 for extra tutoring, etc.  The appropriations are specific to unaccredited districts or provisionally accredited districts…


6 - Likewise, DESE has disqualified Normandy from receiving any of the funds for early childhood education - specifically targeted to economically disadvantaged students.  HB 1689, if signed by the Governor, would allow unaccredited districts to receive state funds for early childhood education programs through the foundation formula beginning in the 2015-2016 school year…


The school districts dealing with these transfers deserve answers – first and foremost, whose law do they follow, Missouri's or DESE's?



Nixon Signs SB 680

Governor Jay Nixon signed SB 680.  See it here.


The move was cheered by MASW: Senate Bill 680 will allow Missourians with drug felony convictions to receive benefits from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, commonly known as food stamps) if they are following court orders and meet requirements, including income guidelines. This will help ex-offenders maintain health and energy for daily life tasks, including job search. Compassion and public safety truly meet in this bill since access to food is an important tool for preventing relapse into addiction and criminal behavior.



Boyd Meets Voters

On Facebook, Neal Boyd, Republican running in House 149, recounts his experience door-knocking in the district.  See it here.


A particular house I visited yesterday left my head spinning and a grin on my face. A man said, "I normally wouldn't vote for a colored boy, but you're ok." I said, "Thank you, sir," we talk about the neighborhood declining, and the lack of jobs, and he let me put a sign in his yard. I call that success!



Dueling Endorsements in House 3

The peerless John Combest has the story from the Kirksville Daily Express on endorsements in House 3.  Read it here.


Pull Quote:  And the endorsements have started rolling in for the Missouri House District 3 candidates. Within minutes of each other Thursday afternoon, both incumbent Rep. Nate Walker (R-003) and primary challenger Dr. John Bailey announced endorsements from the Missouri State Teachers Association and Missouri Club for Growth PAC, respectively.

Schweich: Expect Litigation Costs to Gun Amendment

AP’s David Lieb reports that Auditor Tom Schweich believes that the gun rights constitutional amendment up for voter approval will lead to unspecified costs of litigation.  See it here.


Pull Quote: Although no specific, direct monetary figures are cited in the ballot wording approved by Missouri Auditor Tom Schweich, it says the passage of the measure "will likely lead to increased litigation and criminal justice related costs." That's based on an assumption that the amendment would give people new grounds to challenge Missouri's criminal laws and local ordinances restricting guns.



Barnes: Nixon Veto Will Increase Taxes

Rep. Jay Barnes, emailing constituents and supporters, Governor Jay Nixon’s veto of the unemployment benefits change/cut Republicans had passed.


“Unemployment benefits are different from typical federally administered social welfare programs because they are funded almost entirely by the state. When the economy is humming, the UI Trust Fund collects sufficient taxes to pay ongoing claims. But when the economy slows, Missouri’s UI Trust Fund has a history of falling behind. When that happens, Missouri goes hat-in-hand to the federal government for a loan. In the last recession, Missouri joined 35 other states in the beggar's line. Ultimately, Missouri borrowed more than $700 million. Consequently, Missouri employers were hit with an additional tax of approximately $84 per employee. Senate Bill 673, which I carried in the House for Sen. Kehoe, would help Missouri avoid this spend-borrow-tax trap in three ways…  Yet, by vetoing SB 673, if history is our guide, Gov. Nixon has nearly guaranteed that unemployment taxes will be raised in a future economic downturn.  I, of course, believe the legislature should override this veto, but it’s unclear at this point whether there will be enough votes. The bill passed with a veto proof majority in the Senate, but had only 101 votes in the House. I believe six additional votes will be available in veto session, but that’s two shy of an override…”



Cunningham for Ashcroft

Former state senator Jane Cunningham, in a note inviting supporters to a Jay Ashcroft fundraiser, says that “The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.”


I think we have another rising political star with the makings of his dad. Despite my initial skepticism about the State Senate District Jay Ashcroft is in and his very liberal Democrat opponent, Jill Schupp, after studying the new district lines that take in a big hunk of my old heavenly conservative district and seeing polls that show Jay's early lead, I've concluded this is one to invest in.  As you can see from the invitation, Jay is attracting a lot of attention and support.  I can tell you he is doing his part by really working it.  Government is in desperate need of more "Ashcrofts."



Hicks for Hicks

And don’t forget about the third Republican in the Senate 24 primary.  Besides Ashcroft and attorney Jack Spooner, there’s also life coach Robb Hicks, who dumped $50K into his campaign account over the weekend.



More Transport Money

In the large contributions below there’s another $145K coming into the pro-transportation tax campaign committee.  And the Post-Dispatch reports that a “comprehensive public education effort” is in on its way from the campaign.  See it here.



Gephardt for Bayer

From Politico’s Influence: “Pharmaceutical and chemical giant Bayer Corporation has hired Gephardt Group Government Affairs to defend against claims that its pesticides are causing devastating damage to honeybee populations. Former House Majority Leader Richard Gephardt (D-Mo.) will lobby for Bayer, as will his former chief of staff, Thomas O'Donnell. It’s the second lobbying hire on the specific issue of bee populations amid growing outcry from environmentalists and related legal battles with the European Union and the Environmental Protection Agency… Bayer is the Gephardt Group’s second new registration this week: They’ve also signed Digital Documents to work on government contracting issues.”



Koster’s Fireworks Fundy

Attorney General Chris Koster will host a fireworks viewing from the Chase Park Plaza in St. Louis on July 3.  The suggested family contribution to join the AG at the Zodiac Room comes at three patriotic levels: Red, $1,000; White, $500; and Blue, $250.



Simms to Mizzou Charter Operations

According to LinkedIn, Earl Simms is now the director of St. Louis operations for the University of Missouri Charter School Operations.  Previously, Simms had been with the Missouri Charter Public School Association.



Love for Hillary

This tweet coming from Crystal Brinkley (@brinkleycrystal): Great to see @repcleaver this evening at @HillaryClinton book signing. We are @ReadyForHillary! #midlandkc


One observer scratching their head: “A bit unusual for the paid executive director of a major political party to announce personal preference in evolving presidential primary for two years’ hence, unless the prospective candidate is a favorite son or daughter. It’s an interesting message.”



Help Wanted

Great Circle seeks Contract Manager.  “This position proposes and drafts potential contracts with new funding partners and Great Circle, coordinates the timely renewal and negotiation of expiring contracts as they occur, and works with Senior Leadership in determining new or expanded services under existing contractual arrangements.”   See the ad here.



Administrative Hearing Commission seeks Staff Attorney. “The Missouri Administrative Hearing Commission, a quasi-judicial administrative agency, has an immediate opening in its Jefferson City office for a Missouri licensed attorney. Staff attorney responsibilities include preparing draft decisions/orders, providing legal advice to Commissioners and staff, and responding to public inquiries… Salary range: $50,000 - $60,000. Excellent state benefits.”  See the ad here.



The Missouri General Assembly Joint Committee on Education seeks Executive Director. “Job responsibilities include conducting research, evaluating empirical and comparative data and making recommendations on issues relating to both short term and long range planning for Missouri’s education system.”  See the ad here.



Fundraising Calendar

Today’s fundraising events from Mary Scruggs’ indispensable events calendar:

Speaker Tim Jones Golf – Legends Golf Club, Eureka.

Reps. Charlie Davis, Tom Flanigan, Bill Lant, Bill Reiboldt, Bill White & Sen. Ron Richard Bowling – 4th Street Alley, Joplin.



$5K+ Contributions

Association of MO Electrical Cooperatives PAC - $10,000 from Associated Electric Cooperative Inc.

Hanaway for Governor - $10,000 from Menlo Smith Trustee.

Citizens to Elect John Bailey - $16,071 from John Bailey.

Missourians for Safe Transportation & New Jobs Inc – $75,000 from Emery Sapp & Sons Inc.

Missourians for Safe Transportation & New Jobs Inc – $10,000 from Garvey LLC.

Missourians for Safe Transportation & New Jobs Inc – $10,000 from Jefferson City Chamber of Commerce (Civic Progress).

Missourians for Safe Transportation & New Jobs Inc – $20,000 from American Council of Engineering Companies.

Missourians for Safe Transportation & New Jobs Inc – $10,000 from ACEC/Missouri.

Missourians for Safe Transportation & New Jobs Inc – $10,000 from Consulting Engineers Council of MO Political Action Committee.

Missourians for Safe Transportation & New Jobs Inc – $10,000 from Thomas McGee LC Insurance Agency.

Frodge for Missouri - $25,000 from Missouri Club for Growth.

Citizens for Steve Stenger - $25,000 from I.U.O.E. Local 513 Political & Educational Fund.

Missourians for Koster - $25,000 from Gregory Wendt.

Robb Hicks for Senate - $50,000 from Robb Hicks.



Happy Birthday

Happy birthdays to Rep. Kevin Engler (55), and Rupp’s Rachel Hassani.