NP Spotlight: Volume 11
NP Spotlight is a regular (weekly-ish) feature providing updates on local and statewide legislation and governance, links to significant information, and general news about Northland Progress.
Republican split leads to full funding for Missouri public school formula
For the first time since its adoption twelve years ago, it looks as if the formula used to determine funding for Missouri’s public schools will receive full financial backing from the state. The Missouri House’s proposed budget included full funding of the formula, but it seemed unlikely to pass the Senate given opposition from key GOP Senate leaders, including President Pro Tem Sen. Ron Richard and Appropriations Chair Sen. Dan Brown.
Notwithstanding the opposition by leadership, ten Republican senators joined nine democrats last Tuesday in voting to fully fund the formula by a final vote of 19-14. Northland Senators Ryan Silvey (R-Kansas City) and Rob Schaaf (R-St. Joseph) were among those who voted for an additional $45 million to be allotted for public education. After the proposed budget was amended on the Senate floor, public education advocates in the gallery of the upper chamber excitedly counted senators’ votes during the roll call. Elation was tempered by concern as to how the news might affect other budget and education issues, especially the push by “school choice” advocates to funnel public funds to private schools (more on that below).
The unexpected addition of $45 million into the budget on the Senate floor must come from somewhere, and opponents argued that the vote will necessitate deep cuts to other state programs. Critics also point to a 2014 law that requires the state to cover some costs of early childhood education a year after the formula is fully funded.
Nevertheless, school advocates across the state celebrated the news as a coup for public education; because the House included the $45 million in its version of the budget and the two chambers are now in agreement, the funding cannot be changed when negotiators meet in conference committee to work out differences.
The Missouri legislature has a deadline to produce a constitutionally-mandated balanced budget on Governor Greitens’ desk by Friday, May 5; if the two chambers fail to reach an agreement by then, a special session will be called.
Senate passes voucher bill that would funnel public funds to private schools, House places it on fast-track
Despite controversy over whether the State can afford to fully fund its public schools, the Missouri Senate easily approved a bill that would provide tax credits of $25 million for private elementary and secondary education. SB 313 would allow tax credits to establish “education savings accounts” (read: vouchers) for tuition to private or for-profit schools that have little to no financial or performance accountability. Senators Ryan Silvey and Rob Schaaf were among the eighteen Republicans who voted “yes” (along with two St. Louis Democrats), while Senator Dan Hegeman (R-Cosby) voted against the bill. The bill also contains sweeping changes to student transfer rules and a phase-in provision covering early education funding.
SB 313 was quickly sent to the House where it has been fast-tracked in the General Laws Committee, with a hearing set for Monday afternoon. A committee vote is scheduled for Monday night. Call your state representative and tell them to vote against SB 313.
Top Republicans battle ethics complaints, fall short on campaign promises for reform
It was a tough week for the State GOP when it comes to ethics. The Kansas City Star’s editorial board joined in the call for an investigation of Missouri Senate President Pro Tem Ron Richard’s alleged “pay to play” relationship with megadonor David Humphreys. Sen. Rob Schaaf, a vocal proponent of ethics reform himself, was forced to defend against suggestions of impropriety not from Democrats, but from fellow Republicans Gov. Eric Greitens and Sen. Caleb Rowden (R-Columbia). As a cap on the week, Greitens was fined $1,000.00 on Friday by the Missouri Ethics Commission for violating state campaign ethics laws.
Against this backdrop, there has been a notable lack of movement on ethics reforms promised during campaign season by prominent Republican officeholders. Greitens himself ran on a promise to “blow up” business as usual in Jefferson City and seek ethics reforms, but has come under fire for a lack of transparency and reliance on dark money while failing to push ethics reforms. Attorney General Josh Hawley also ran on a promise to create a Public Corruption Unit to take on the “corruption crisis in Jefferson City,” but now eagerly balks on investigating allegations of “pay to play” by fellow Republicans in the Capitol.
If the General Assembly will not provide Missourians with meaningful legislation on ethics and campaign finance reform, it is up to the people to pass it by referendum. Stay tuned.
New MO voter ID law goes into effect in June – training on compliance and voter education this week
As of June 1, 2017, Missouri citizens will be required to show an accepted form of photo identification to case a ballot. In order to get an accepted photo ID, voters will need to show personal documents such as a birth certificate or social security card. The new law has been criticized as confusing, time-consuming and discouraging to would-be voters in a state that has a problem with low voter turnout, and Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft and other state leaders are slow-playing education campaigns.
Northland Progress is committed to promoting voting rights and increasing the voter turnout in the Northland. We encourage our members and supporters to attend “MO Voters MO Progress,” an education and training event sponsored by Organizing for Action:
Organizing for Action Presents: “MO Voters MO Progress”
Thursday, May 4
Mid-Continent Public Library (North Independence Branch)
317 West US Highway 24, 64050