Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Exclusive: Cunninghaus Push Educational Reforms at “Invite Only Meeting”

Last night at an “invite only meeting” House Education Chair Scott Dieckhaus and Senate General Laws Chair Jane Cunningham convened about two dozen education lobbyists and stakeholders.  The assembled group, in a Senate Hearing Room, represented the core constituencies of education.  Not only were organization like NEA, MSTA, MSBA etc present, but also pro-school choice lobbyists Brent Hemphill and Travis Brown, a representative from LG Peter Kinder’s office, charter organizations, Rep. Rick Stream and Cooperating School Districts’ John Urkevich.  (Absent, according to one source, were Senate Education Chair David Pearce, and a representative from AFT, American Federation of Teachers.)


It’s said it was a “come to Jesus” meeting in which Dieckhaus and Cunningham laid out the case for adopting some of their educational reforms.  That case is built on the recent Turner court decision (see below for a refresher) which threatens to disrupt the current status quo.  Their pitch: either come to the table and work with us on legislation you can live with, or roll the dice with future court cases following Turner.


In return for enacting some parameters on the Turner decision, Cunninghaus are seeking big changes – end to teacher tenure, broadening of charter schools, and greater competition fostered by vouchers.


One source said that the participants did “get religion” to extend the metaphor.  And another cheered that this opens the prospects for significant educational changes this session. 



Refresher on “Turner”

The Case

Jane Turner, a St. Louis City parent, contracted with the suburban Clayton district during the 2006-07 year to transfer her children in exchange for negotiated tuition payments. Then the state stripped the St. Louis City district of its accreditation.


So Turner sued for reimbursement of her tuition payments, citing language in the relevant 1999 statute which stated not only that accredited districts in counties adjoining unaccredited districts had to accept transfers from the unaccredited district, but that the unaccredited district was responsible for tuition and transportation costs.


The Ruling

The trial court ruled in favor of the defendants (both the Clayton district, which didn’t want to be deluged with new students; and the City district, which dreaded the potential exacerbation of its perennial budget struggles).


In appeal the Missouri Supreme Court ruled that the statute did apply to the City district (which contended that, given its transitional status, the statute should not apply). But it also ruled that the plaintiffs and not the City district should bear the costs.  The parents were bound by the terms of their contract with Clayton, which lacked a contingency permitting them to stop tuition payments if the City district lost its accreditation.


By sticking close to the facts of the case, the Court didn’t explicitly address the central policy question: Can other kids in the city transfer to adjoining districts on the City district’s dime?


But with a potential flood of lawsuits to clarify the implications of the Court’s ruling, and the “wildcard” nature of the judicial branch, there’s an incentive for compromise on all sides.



The Polls Begin

Nevermind we’re twenty months away from Election Day, it’s time to start polling the US Senate race.  See the Public Policy Polling poll Here.


The take-away:  Sen. Claire McCaskill’s approval numbers are low enough that she looks vulnerable.  This situation is all the more sensitive because of Missouri sharp turn rightward and Robin Carnahan’s dismal performance last November.


However, of the four potential Republican candidates polled – Ed Martin, Sarah Steelman, Ann Wagner and Todd Akin – there’s no one who is clearly best able to take on McCaskill – at this point.


In McCaskill’s favor are some serious strengths.  She’s a tough and experienced campaigner.  She deftly combines policy depth with a folksy delivery, the former being something missing from the entire Republican field right now.  She’s a proven fundraiser.  And finally, there’s a likely rightward, and draining, Republican primary to make her ultimate opponent poorly positioned for November.



Senate Yesterday

The Senate filibuster of Local Control came from all corners of the body – Sens. Jim Lembke, Ryan McKenna, Maria Chappelle-Nadal, Rob Schaaf all participated.  Sen. Joe Keaveny’s strategy of accepting any and all amendments to try to ease the bill through looked sound considering that allies Pro Tem Rob Mayer and Speaker Steve Tilley would be able to appoint conference committee members to restore the bill to a previous incarnation.   But the opponents were not going to let that happen.  It was laid over.



And then Senate rolled its Prop B changes in the afternoon.



Tipster: Watching Holsman

“Both Speaker Steve Tilley and Minority Leader Mike Talboy dropped in on Rep. Jason Holsman’s workshop on Renewables / Prop C (HR6)… My guess is that Holsman is being watched to make sure he doesn’t ‘go too far out there’ on renewables and drive up the cost.  This is an issue where the utilities and industrials are united.”



Tweet of the Day

joliejustus Jolie Justus


Where was this filibuster when I was battling insomnia last night? I wonder if I could convince the senators to talk me to sleep tonight.



Lobbyists Principal Changes

From the Pelopidas website:


James Bowers, Jr. added MW Towers, and Ariane Kemper.

Neal Hefferren added Walker Towel & Uniform Service.

Patricia Jensen added Ariane Kemper, Briarcliff Realty Company, and Price Development Group.

Aaron March added Waterway Carwash, Walker Towel & Uniform Service, and Price Development Group.   

Tim Rickey added Timothy Rickey.

Michael White added Brizrcliff Realty Company, Kissick Construction Co., and Anthony Rizzo.

Jane Dueker, Nicolas Frey and Khristine Heisinger deleted Stinson Morrison Heckler LLP.



$5k+ Contributions

House Republican Campaign Committee - $50,000 from David Humphreys.




Happy birthday to Laura Winter.