Monday, July 29, 2013

Student Transfers

Looking ahead to January, education advocates on both sides of the usual divide (“reformers” versus “establishment”) are staring down another legislative session where their issues will be front and center.

On the one hand, there are some ingredients from last year’s debate which will be unchanged.  On the House side, Speaker Tim Jones will likely be just as aggressive in pushing his school choice, anti-teachers’ union agenda.  In the Senate, there’s no reason to think that Senate Education Chair David Pearce will be any more welcoming of those ideas.  So one would assume a stalemate is the most likely outcome.

But the impending transfer of students from unaccredited districts in poor neighborhoods to better districts in more affluent neighborhoods in St. Louis County and St. Charles are likely to add some urgency to the search for a workable compromise.

There are outraged parents.  Outraged parents vote.  And Republicans can pontificate on the economic miracles that a .5% income tax cut (phased-in) will have as much as they want, but folks who feel their schools are at risk of being overrun will have something else on their minds.  Not that they’ll vote Democratic.  But Republicans in these areas will find a primary candidate supported by a suddenly energized groundswell.

At the center of one of these districts is Rep. Mark Parkinson.  He has a record voting for the school choice platform.  In 2008 he was with the tax credit for scholarship legislation.  Yet the narrative in this crisis in Francis Howell isn’t yet defined.  So far the school board has been attempting to blame the legislature and that’s bad news for Parkinson.

Still it’s early.  Will those districts – and others who fear a similar fate down the road – blame the “reformers” for allowing the poor kids access to the schools which are “theirs” by right of having moved into the district years ago?   Or will they blame the “establishment” for resisting the changes that reformers say would have improved those failing schools?

In this situation, it’s the reformers who feel that they have the upper hand.   Their implicit threat, made good by the Missouri Supreme Court: either you take the medicine prescribed, or prepare for the hordes at your school steps.  In the past, the reformers have never been able to cash in their leverage.  They’re “asking price” has always been too high.  One wonders they’d avoid the temptation of overreach now and settle for some incremental gains.

One possible compromise that has been mentioned is moving the expert teachers and principals, rather than the kids.  That is, take some sample of teachers and administrators from good districts and have them help the failing schools.

This “solution” though seems to raise as many questions as it answers.  How will those teachers be chosen?  What training will they receive?  What extra compensation if any?  And last, but maybe most important, is there any evidence that this sort of intervention actually works?

Now Comes Schmitt

Entering into the education mix, Sen. Eric Schmitt appears to be renewing his quest to hold the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education accountable for shifting funds in disregard to the “foundation formula.”

His recent tweets: “Riverview being robbed of $5.2 million in FY13&14 from DESE without statutory authority under school Foundation Formula”

“For 2 STL area unaccredited dists in FY13&14 DESE will take away $4.2M from Normandy & $5.2 from Riverviw Gardens - without statutory authority”

“Think if those $($30M bw STL Public, Riverview & Normandy) were used in creative ways to help every child get a quality education”

The Schmitt gambit will likely hinge not on some grand legislative compromise.  Although there is always fine talk about working for a solution, no progress has been made on rewriting the formula - again.  Instead, those who believe that DESE has overstepped its authority need only a parent and an attorney.  That is, someone with standing to sue.  And one would think there’d be no better place to find an outraged parent than in one of the failing schools which has less money distributed to it because of DESE’s actions.

We’ll see…

Baringer Enters License Collector Chase

St. Louis Alderwoman Donna Baringer has enlisted the support of Rep. Michele Kratky to seek the St. Louis City License Collector appointment from Governor Jay Nixon.  Two other aldermen – Terry Kennedy and Jeffrey Boyd – have previously been mentioned as pursuing the appointment as well.

In an interesting spin to her candidacy, Baringer is promising to work toward legislative action eliminating the position.   See the KMOV story here.

Bits

NYTimes reports on solar panels versus utilities… see it here.

Permitting fashion trucks?  I watched this video twice, and I’m pretty sure it’s not satire.   See it here.

Governor Jay Nixon will talk about the credit rating agencies and the impact of HB 253 today.  If it was a favorable impact, he wouldn’t be talking about it…  But the idea is rating cut = higher interest payments for the state.

$5K+Contributions

Missouri Senate Campaign Committee - $10,000 from The Doe Run Company.

Missourians for Koster - $10,000 from Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Kansas City PAC.

Clint Zweifel for Missouri - $10,000 from Davis, Ketchmark, McCreight & Ivers.

Missourians for Koser - $10,000 from Thompson Coburn LLP.

Kander for Missouri - $5,001 from Barry Aycock.

Schupp for Senate - $5,001 from Barry Aycock.

Notes on Money

Barry Aycock, the southeast Missouri businessman who has designed on statewide office, is sending money to prominent Dems.  And doing so with the $5K+1 amount so people notice.

Lobbyist Registrations

From the Pelopidas website:

Brent Hemphill deleted Renew Missouri, and Grow Missouri.

Birthdays

Happy birthday to Rep. Vicki Englund (39).