Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Education Issues High on Agenda as Missouri Lawmakers Return

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Education Issues High on Agenda as Missouri Lawmakers Return

Article excerpt

JEFFERSON CITY How teachers are evaluated, held accountable and earn job-protecting tenure could be on the docket when a supermajority of Republicans takes control of the Missouri Legislature.

House Speaker Tim Jones said increased education funding alone has not been enough to boost performance and that he wants to enact change. He said Missouris best teachers should be rewarded, good teachers should be given an incentive to improve and poor performers should be held accountable and possibly encouraged to move on.

The public education system is another vestige of an antiquated bureaucracy and an antiquated establishment mentality, and its not keeping up with the times, said Jones, R-Eureka.

Missouri lawmakers return Jan. 9 to the state Capitol for a session that runs through mid-May. Republicans expanded their majority in the state House, and a unified GOP caucus now can override a gubernatorial veto without Democratic support. Republican leaders listed education among their priorities.

One example Missouri could follow on education issues, Jones said, comes from New Jersey, where the Republican governor signed a bill passed by the Democratically controlled Legislature. It includes an evaluation process and makes it harder for teachers to earn tenure and easier for them to lose it.

Missouri teachers currently can receive tenure after teaching in a district for five years. With tenure, they can be dismissed for immoral conduct; incompetency; inefficiency or insubordination; willful or persistent violation of the states school laws or regulations; excessive absences; or conviction of certain felonies. Teachers also can be removed if they have a physical or mental condition that makes them unfit to instruct children. School districts seeking to remove a tenured teacher must provide written charges specifying the grounds for dismissal and offer a hearing.

Teacher organizations have resisted changes to Missouris tenure law. They contend the protections allow teachers to advocate for their students without fear of losing their jobs.

Another education issue has been evaluations for teachers and administrators. The Missouri State Board of Education this past year approved a pilot project, and the states waiver for the federal No Child Left Behind law will require districts to have an evaluation process in place within several years.

Education advocacy group StudentsFirst said it would like state legislation requiring meaningful evaluations of teachers and administrators in all school districts that prioritize student learning and are used for career advancement decisions. Lea Crusey, the organizations Missouri director, said the evaluations should account for student achievement and growth.

We cant afford to wait, Crusey said.

Otto Fajen, a lobbyist for the Missouri National Education Association, said the State Board of Education has prompted action on evaluations. …

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