Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Future “Parkinsons” Hold Key to Education Legislation?

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.


Some ingredients from last year’s debate remain unchanged.  On the House side, Speaker Tim Jones will likely be just as aggressive in pushing his school choice, anti-teachers’ union agenda.  Across the building though, on the Senate side, there’s no reason to think that Senate Education Chair David Pearce will be any more welcoming of those ideas.


These two legislators represent immovable pillars of the debate until they’re term-limited.  Nothing gets through the House with the speaker’s approval; likewise the education chair controls legislation on this issue in the Senate. 


In the past this has been a recipe for stalemates or incremental movement at best. However a critical new element has been injected into the debate, and with it, new players.


After a long and winding road of lawsuits and appeals, students from unaccredited districts in poor neighborhoods were granted the right to transfer into to better performing districts in more affluent neighborhoods.


While cheered by the reformers, the reaction from the parents in the receiving districts has ranged from outraged and unnerved to concerned.


In this context, education will be the issue that dominates the dialogue in those districts. Republicans can pontificate on the economic miracles of a .5% income tax cut, but parents who worry their children’s schools are at risk of being overrun will have something else on their minds. 


Rep. Mark Parkinson represents the Francis Howell district in St. Charles that’s in the middle of one of the transfers.  He has a record of supporting school choice, and he hasn’t run from that record, even though the Francis Howell school board has been pointing the finger in his direction.  Parkinson is serving his third term, and can take the heat.


But what’s interesting is that next year, there may be a dozen “Parkinsons” in the legislature, hearing from angry parents, being pounded by local school boards.


Education Commissioner Chris Nicastro recently gave an interview in which she painted a chaotic future for several districts.  She said that she didn’t expect the Normandy School District to be able to pay its bills the rest of this year.  And that she would ask the state legislature to cover the transfer expenses which will run into the many millions.


Likewise, she thinks that Riverview Gardens School District will also run aground financially next year and need state assistance.


Furthermore, as if that won’t cause enough grumbling in the legislature, Nicastro expects that “several” more districts will lose accreditation next year.  And, by implication, the districts surrounding them will become the next wave of Francis Howell/Mehlville receiving districts.


In this situation, it’s the reformers who feel that they have the upper hand.  School districts want a “fix,” some limits on how many students they have to take.  To support a fix, reformers have been asking for a bevy of new options for children, like expanding charter schools or virtual schools that operate over the internet.


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. 


Whether the reformers can cash in on this gambit though may depend on the future Parkinsons of the legislature.  Will they become gun-shy from the school choice agenda which has allowed students in under-performing districts entry into their own?  Will they view the transfer issue as an unintended consequence, and worry that the reform agenda has unforeseen impacts on local schools?  Or will they take the heat and let the experiment play out, even in their own backyard?  


CEAM: Thursday is Decision Day for Lawsuit

The Children’s Education Alliance of Missouri’s press release on a possible lawsuit in the student transfers…

“In accordance with the plaintiff's good faith hope that an agreement will be reached without having to go to court, a lawsuit remains yet to be filed by parents from Riverview Gardens School District (RGSD) against Mehlville School District (MSD). 

“Since being served copies of the lawsuit on Aug. 6, along with a letter outlining expectations that needed to be met in order to avoid legal action against the district, MSD and Kirkwood School District have agreed to help identify a solution that is in the best interest of all kids. At present, the Cooperating School District is working to get in touch with all the families who did not get placed in a school district for which transportation would be provided. 

“Based on the most current numbers, the Children's Education Alliance of Missouri (CEAM) believes that less than 100 families seeking transfer to a school with transportation remain unresolved.

“On Thursday, Aug. 15, after consulting with the families involved, a decision will be made regarding whether the situation has been satisfactorily resolved or if further legal action needs to be taken.”

Sinquefield Files Suit Against Limits Petition

Kansas City Star’s Jason Hancock reports that the biggest of donors, Rex Sinquefield, has filed a lawsuit to derail Fred Sauer’s initiative petition which would limit campaign contributions.  Read it here.

According to the article, the lawsuit argues the constitutional right to freedom of speech is infringed by limits.  And also that the lost revenue to the state (courtesy of the economists’ fairy dust “multiplier effect”) is greater than the fiscal note claims because smaller campaign budgets equal fewer tax revenues!

Veillette in House 98

Carol Veillette filed a campaign committee for House 98 as a Republican.  The current representative, Dwight Scharnhorst, is termed.  His wife, Rea, has filed a campaign committee.  Others have expressed interest.

Veillette ran unsuccessfully for state representative in 2002 – District 93 – and placed 4th in a four-way primary, winning 15.8% of the vote.  (Jodi Stefanick was the winner.)  Veillette also ran unsuccessfully for Rockford School Director in 2005, placing 6th in that six-way race.

St. Louis Bits

The first step of the first phase of a city-county merger in St. Louis?  Read the Post-Dispatch article here.

County Executive Charlie Dooley once again in the middle of a quasi-scandal in St. Louis County.  This time a police board member is alleged to have made money off a contract.  Read it here.  Just another paper-cut for Dooley or is there an accumulation over the years of these various episodes (trash collection contracts, Temporiti etc).

In St. Louis City, 7th Ward Green candidate David Gordon was fined $3,950 by the Missouri Ethics Commission for failure to file campaign finance reports.  See it here.

Gina Loudon, EBT Vigilante

From former state senator John Loudon’s wife, Gina Gentry Loudon’s, Facebook:

So here is a piece of good news for you. I was at the grocery store tonight& the guy in line ahead of me used EBT. I was floored, because he was OBVIOUSLY fine--able bodied, fine. I said, "Wow, looks to me like you could work just as easily as I can to pay for YOUR groceries (cheerios, soda, expensive chips, no fruit, with a baby in a stroller wearing Nikes)." He ignored me, or pretended not to hear me so I went in closer. "What makes you think that I should work to pay for YOUR groceries to be free?" He still ignored me so I was louder.


Everyone in both grocery lines was now staring.


I looked at the checker and said "Is it hard for you to work so hard then see slackers like him just walk in and use YOUR money to buy his crap?"


The checker said, "oh, you don't know the half of it. You should see what I see day after day. They sell their cards, and buy alcohol, lottery tickets, and cigarettes!" I told him that I knew that, and asked what I could do. He said to take their card when they try to sell it and bring it in and then they will call the police. I was really glad to know that, so I thanked him and told him I would do that.


Then, he said something strange, "Are you going to drink any wine tonight?"


"No, I have to work tonight" I said.


Then, as I was leaving with my cart, he ran out a nice bottle of wine to me. He was the owner of the whole store.


It is a great day in America!

Help Wanted

“The Missouri Credit Union Association has an opening for an Administrative Assistant in the Credit Union House in Jefferson City.  Responsibilities include performing a comprehensive range of administrative functions… assists Advocacy staff in conducting research, arranging appointments with legislators, tracking legislation, reviewing and posting content to the MCUA website, and facilitating visits with legislators.”  See the ad here.

eMailbag: Anti-Sanders

Mike Sanders is pushing another sales tax in Jackson County. This constant push to fund our county through regressive sales taxes looks like a slow march toward the Sinquefield plan.  Sanders won't make it out of a primary…If women are so mad that they aren't on the ticket: here is their spot. Run a badass like Jean Peters-Baker and she could win it…”

Lobbyist Registrations

From the Pelopidas website:


Patrick J Wilson added Earth Island Institute D/B/A Renew Missouri.


Happy birthdays to SEIU’s Nancy Cross and former state senator John Loudon (46).