At right: Representative Lampe meets with Dr. Charles Sheppard to discuss legislation.
Since Governor Nixon announced his plan for higher education funding, Missouri's colleges and universities have been faced with several challenges. Without doubt, all of our institutions of higher learning will find ways to deal with funding shortfalls. However, it is also important for our Budget Committee to consider measures that will lessen the burden our schools will face.
Missouri State University's Interim President, Clif Smart, did an excellent job speaking before the Education Appropriations Committee about higher education. His expertise was useful to the entire committee, and I applaud his insight and vision. Southwest Missouri is home to some of the finest colleges and universities in the state, including Ozark Technical Community College. I serve on the Elementary and Secondary Education Committee, but I am proud to represent the interests of these institutions of higher learning as well. Through cooperation among our legislature, governor, and school leadership, I hope that we can find a solution that keeps the quality of a Missouri education a top priority.
Elementary and Secondary Education Committee
The Elementary and Secondary Education Committee has been hard at work. Three bills were discussed in committee this week: HB 1147, School Accreditation, HB 1043, Education Funding Formula, and HB 1526, Teacher Tenure. HB 1147 and HB1043 were voted on and passed by the committee.
HB 1043 changes the laws regarding the elementary and secondary education funding formula. More detailed information about the specific funding mechanism can be read here.
HB 1174 revises the law regarding the timelines and options for State Board intervention when it classifies a district as unaccredited. The bill would allow the State Board to conduct a hearing regarding the status of the district at any time after the district is classified as unaccredited. This legislation and all actions taken on it can be found here.
HB 1526 changes the laws regarding school personnel and establishes the Teacher Multiyear Contract Act. It also revises the provisions of the Teacher Tenure Act and revises the evaluation process of teachers. The committee heard significant opposition to this bill when the committee met on Wednesday. You can access bill information and action updates on this legislation here.
Discrimination and Voter ID Press Release from the House Democratic Caucus
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. - Missouri House Republicans today celebrated the first day of Black History Month by debating separate bills that would severely weaken the state's employment discrimination laws and disenfranchise roughly a quarter-million legal Missouri voters, with racial minorities, the elderly, the disabled and the poor being the most affected. House Democrats have pledged to unanimously oppose both bills, and Republicans were unable to bring either measure to an immediate vote.
House Bill 1219 would bar the courthouse doors to many legitimate claims of employment discrimination and further protect wrongdoers by limiting damage awards in those cases that still manage to clear the proposed new legal hurdles. The bill would make it much easier for unscrupulous employers to escape punishment for wrongful discrimination based on race, gender, age, disability or religion.
"Missouri's existing anti-discrimination laws protect victims and punish wrongdoers," said Assistant House Minority Leader Tishaura Jones, D-St. Louis. "A 'yes' vote on this bill would turn the law on its head to protect wrongdoers and punish victims. House Bill 1219 is beyond redemption; it cannot be fixed. The only way this bill could be improved is to run it through a shredder."
Making it easier for employers to escape accountability for wrongful discrimination is a top priority for the Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the state's other major business groups.
"This bill was derived in greed and discrimination and to bring it forth on the very first day of Black History Month is unbelievable," said state Rep. Steve Webb, D-Florissant and chairman of the Missouri Legislative Black Caucus. "This is a slap in the face to all who have fought for and sacrificed their lives for equality in this state and this country. I guess next I'm going to walk out of my office and find a 'coloreds only' water fountain."
The other bill debated, House Bill 1104, would require voters to produce a government-issued photo identification at their polling place in order to cast a regular ballot. The Secretary of State's Office estimates that about 250,000 legal Missouri voters don't have a government issued photo ID and many, through no fault of their own, are unable to obtain one for a variety of reasons. Republican House leaders set the bills aside following brief debate on each but are expected to revisit the bills later.
Don't Forget to Vote!
Don't forget that the Presidential Primary Election is Tuesday, February 7th. You can find more information here. I urge you to place your vote and make your voice heard.
Former Student Spotlight
It is no secret that I am proud of every student that I have had the privilege of teaching. Being a teacher, advocate for gifted children, and a voice for quality education in Missouri for the past forty years is an honor that I am thankful for every day. I cannot think of a better way to thank my students for giving such great memories and experiences than by recognizing them for their accomplishments. For the remainder of session, I will honor one or more of my former students in this section of the newsletter. If anyone has recommendations of former students who would like to be recognized, please contact my office with your suggestion.