That's why I've sponsored legislation that modifies the way our state approaches charter schools. Missouri's parents deserve to have all options on the table when it comes to their child's education. One measure, SB 838, amends the current law and allows charter schools to be set up in any school district that has schools that have been labeled as underperforming regarding school improvement. If your local school is sinking instead of swimming, then you, as a parent, deserve the right to have your child attend a school that meets your and our state's standards.
This proposed legislation would also allow any higher education institution to be a sponsor of charter schools within their district, and to have some of those costs defrayed by the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE). It will set up policies and procedures for establishing the school and meeting academic guidelines, and it changes the performance goal review to an annual basis, rather than the current tri-annual measurement.
My other legislation relating to charter schools, SB 835, allows "high risk" or "alternative" schools the opportunity to make credit arrangements outside of the school. This includes off-campus instruction, students who work, independent studies, and performance-based credit options, as long as DESE studies the alternative arrangements and makes sure that the students are still graduating, going to college, or working.
Finally, I've introduced legislation that rewards our brightest for graduating high school and getting to college early. Senate Bill 907 creates the Early High School Graduation Scholarship Program, which gives the student 80 percent of that student's state aid (the amount the state would have spent on their fourth year of high school) to use toward college. The other 20 percent would go to the school district, so that the school is not penalized for letting their smartest students move on.
As we move our classrooms into the future, our schools must be as competitive and high-performing as we ask our students to be. That means opening up the system to those who can meet the standards we desire, and making sure that no student is hindered from finding their way, no matter what that way may be.
"Question of the Week" on my Senate Web PageStarting today there will be a "question of the week" on my Senate home page each week during session. Constituents of the 2nd Senatorial District will be able to weigh in on issues that the legislature will be debating in the coming weeks. Each question will remain on my web page for two weeks and then be tallied. The results will be posted for each question on my web page as well as in this report. I encourage you to go to http://www.senate.mo.gov/10info/members/mem02.htm and take the poll on this week's question.
Legislature Says "NO" to Farmland Tax IncreaseA recommendation by the State Tax Commission that taxes increase on Missouri's most productive farmland and decrease on its least productive ground has been rejected by the Legislature.
Senate Concurrent Resolution 35 & 32, SCR 35&32, which I co-signed, passed the House yesterday by a vote of 143-to-11 to reject the Tax Commission recommendation. The Senate approved the resolution by a 30-to-3 vote on January 28, 2010 and sent it to the House for consideration. After yesterday's vote farmland tax rates will remain as they are. The resolution does not have to go to the Governor for his signature.
House Passes Autism BillYesterday the House passed their version of the autism bill by a vote of 135-18. It is now in the Senate for consideration.
Alzheimer's State Plan Task Force Public ForumCurrently, there are 110,000 people with Alzheimer's in Missouri and there will be 130,000 by the year 2025. The Alzheimer's State Plan Task Force is asking for the publics input, which is critical to their work. On March 25, 2010 in the Greater St. Louis area there will be a community forum so you can share your thoughts on the issues that matter most to you. It will be held at the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center, 975 N. Warson Road, St. Louis, MO 63132. You can register by calling 314-801-0403.
As the 2010 legislative session unfolds, I will continue to keep you, my constituents, apprised of all major developments, and I look forward to continuing to serve your needs and priorities in Jefferson City. As always, if you have any questions about this week's column or any other matter involving state government, please do not hesitate to contact me. You can reach my office by phone at (866) 271-2844.