Thursday, April 3, 2008
Why We Need a Democratic Majority
We are going to elect Jay Nixon, I'm certain of it. However, he provides common sense Missourians only with a veto pin. We need a Democratic majority to allow good laws to be passed - good laws like a pay increase for teachers as sponsored by Rep. Jason Holsman.
Missouri teacher pay hike in peril
By Lee Logan
ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
JEFFERSON CITY - A state House committee approved a teacher pay boost Wednesday but not without including several hot-button issues that could put the plan in jeopardy.
The plan includes a cornucopia of stipends to reward teachers who increase test scores, gain certification to teach math or remain in school districts where educators are scarce. But several changes were shepherded through by Rep. Scott Muschany, the chairman of a committee that studies education matters.
The bill now includes: scholarships for autistic children who attend private schools; a provision that allows school districts to consider other factors besides experience for salary levels; and a portion that requires teachers to give yearly consent of payroll deductions for teacher associations.
The additions left some lawmakers angry.
"Scott Muschany hijacked my bill," said Rep. Jason Holsman, D-Kansas City, who authored the stipend package. Muschany, R-Frontenac, contends that Holsman had every opportunity to remove his name from the package and called those statements inflammatory. "There was no hijacking," he said. "He's been involved in every conversation on the bill."
Increasing teachers' pay is a key goal of House Speaker Rod Jetton, R-Marble Hill. Concerning the future of his pet project, he would say only, "We have a lot of work to do." Regardless of the committee's changes, the plan's $50 million cost will face pushback from budget leaders who want to trim state spending during an economic downturn.
The committee received a copy of the new plan Tuesday night and debated it for about an hour before voting 6-1 to send it to the full House. Holsman said acting so quickly on a 105-page bill wasn't good government. Muschany said that he provided a breakdown of every new provision and that each element had already been considered previously by the committee.
Besides the process, Holsman also objected to the plan's merit pay elements. About $20 million was directed toward a performance-based stipend that he said encouraged competition among teachers and "breeds an environment where it's every man for himself." Holsman had drafted a schoolwide performance bonus that he called more teacher-friendly. Those bonuses were stripped from the bill.
The proposal "will not pass in its current form," Holsman predicted. He said he would try to alter the proposal before the House voted on it. After the hearing, the state's two large teacher organizations withdrew their support of the bill. "It's no longer a salary bill," said Mike Wood, the lobbyist for the Missouri State Teachers Association, which came up with the idea of a pay boost.
The Missouri National Education Association has long been neutral on the plan, arguing instead for a boost to the state's funding formula. The group is now opposed to the plan, Otto Fajen, the group's lobbyist said.
The bill is HB 2040 - 2430.