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Everything listed under: Local Control

  • Tools to Use: The Missouri General Assembly Roster

     

    The Missouri General Assembly Roster, published by the Secretary of State’s office, is your go-to legislative resource as a Missouri citizen. Like the Yellow Pages of state elected officials, the Roster includes lists of every elected official — and their contact information — in the State of Missouri.

    The Roster includes the names, photos, phone numbers and email addresses of Missouri’s State Senators, State Representatives, U.S. Representatives, and U.S. Senators. The Roster also includes the names, photos, and phone numbers of Missouri’s Executive Officers.

    The Roster includes other helpful information, such as:
    · Standing and Special Committees Lists
    · Contact Information for Elected Official Staff Offices
    · Names & Contact Information for State Executive Officers
    · Map of Missouri’s Federal Congressional Districts
    · Map of Missouri House Districts
    · Map of Missouri Senatorial Districts
    · Missouri General Assembly Schedules

    The Missouri General Assembly Roster is a tool you can use to better-understand who represents your family when important school finance and policy issues arise. With the Roster, you can easily find — and communicate with — each of your state and federal elected officials.

    Go Deeper: Find and Contact Your Missouri Legislators Digitally

    Was this post helpful? It’s part of an ongoing series called Tools to Use that highlights educational, legislative, and funding tools that helps Missouri public school parents navigate policy and funding issues in the state.

    See What the Legislature is Working On: Follow the #MoLeg hashtag

    For regular updates that provide a greater understanding of the public education system, bookmark Missouri Parent News or connect with us on Facebook and Twitter. Share our Tools to Use posts with your network using the hashtag #MoEdTools.


  • #MoEdTools: Find Your Polling Place

    Not everyone knows exactly where to go to vote in local, state, or national elections. The Missouri Secretary of State’s office has a tool to help with that.

    The Find a Polling Place tool allows you to search for your polling place quickly and painlessly. Just put your physical address into the search boxes and add your jurisdiction. Click “Lookup”, and the tool will tell you exactly where to go to vote in your upcoming election.

    There’s just one caveat: if the next election is more than six weeks away, the tool might not be able to tell you yet where to go to vote. You might have to return to the Find Your Polling Place tool a little closer to election time.

    Was this post helpful? It’s part of an ongoing series called #MoEdTools that highlights educational, legislative, and funding tools that helps Missouri public school parents navigate policy and funding issues in the state.

    Learn More: What is Missouri Parent?

    For regular updates that provide a greater understanding of the public education system, bookmark Missouri Parent News or connect with us on Facebook and Twitter. Share our Tools to Use posts with your network using the hashtag #MoEdTools.


  • What Is a School Bond Issue?

     

     

    Have you ever seen a school bond issue on your local ballot, but not been sure exactly what a bond issue really is? This post will explain school bond issues and the tax levies used to repay them. We’ll also introduce a topic that we’ll go into great detail on later this week: operating levies.

    School Bond Issues: The General Obligation Bond
    In most cases, school bond issues are placed on the ballot when a district needs to make capital (i.e. construction) improvements that aren’t funded elsewhere in the school’s budget.

    In most cases, school bonds are General Obligation, or GO, Bonds. GO bonds are municipal bonds used to fund projects, like schools, that don’t generate enough revenue to pay for themselves.

    According to Investopedia.com, the GO bond is, “a municipal bond backed by the credit and ‘taxing power’ of the issuing jurisdiction rather than the revenue from a given project.” (Source)

    Schools don’t need to use assets as collateral for capital projects in the same way that traditional construction projects would. The full faith and credit of voters backs project costs. And unlike a for-profit construction project — for example, a new shopping center — schools don’t need to generate enough revenue to cover the cost of capital projects. That’s where tax levies come into play.

    Full Faith and Credit of the Voters
    Tax levies are often pledged in order to meet the debt service requirements of school bonds. Rather than requiring the school district to generate a substantial enough profit to cover its construction investments, local voters’ personal property taxes go up. This tax increase allows the community to pay back bondholders for the cost of the local school’s capital project. (Source, Source, Source)

    The Missouri Auditor’s Office explains:

    “When authorized by state law, Missouri’s local governments, such as school districts and municipalities, may borrow money to finance capital and other projects by issuing general obligation (GO) bonds, which are guaranteed by the ‘full faith and credit’ of the issuer since the entity can levy a general tax to make GO bond repayments.” (Source)

    It’s important to note that a debt services tax levy for GO bond repayment isn’t the same thing as an operating tax levy. Operating tax levies fund a school district’s operating expenses like utilities and salaries. Springfield Public Schools sums up the difference between a bond and an operating levy on its website:

    “A school district requests a bond issue when it needs to make capital improvements such as building or renovating schools. A tax levy funds operating expenses like salaries, utilities and textbooks. State law is very specific that money from a bond issue may only be used for capital improvements and not to fund a district’s operating budget.” (Source)

    Learn more: What is an Operating Levy?

    Bonds Must Fulfill Their Stated Purpose
    There’s one final aspect of GO bonds that’s important to understand: Bonds are for specific uses, only. The money raised through the bond can be used for the purpose stated on the ballot, and for nothing else. If you see a school bond issue on your local ballot, you can rest assured that that bond issue will cover exactly what the ballot says, and nothing else.

    You can see a full list of bonds registered with the Missouri State Auditor’s Office here.

    If this post was informative, and if you’d like to continue to learn more about policies and funding issues facing Missouri’s K-12 public schools, bookmark Missouri Parent News. You can also connect with us on Facebook or Twitter for daily updates about Missouri public schools.



  • What is an Operating Levy?

     

    When you go to the polls, you might see both bond issues and operating levies on your local ballot. Do you know how an operating levy is different from a bond issue? Keep reading, because we’re about to explain.

    An operating levy is a relatively flexible source of funding for Missouri schools. Unlike bond issues, which can only be used for capital projects, operating levies can be used to support the school in a variety of ways, including salaries, bill paying, and technology upgrades. And while bond issues can be used exclusively for the purposes stated on the ballot, operating levies can be used to cover expenses that aren’t articulated on the ballot.

    Learn More: What is a Bond Issue?

    Springfield Public Schools explains the difference between a bond and an operating levy well: “A school district requests a bond issue when it needs to make capital improvements such as building or renovating schools. A tax levy funds operating expenses like salaries, utilities and textbooks. State law is very specific that money from a bond issue may only be used for capital improvements and not to fund a district’s operating budget.” (Source)

    Operating levies are covered under The Missouri School Operating Tax Levy Agreement, or Amendment 2. Passed in 1998, the constitutional amendment says that school boards can set a levy of up to $2.75 without a vote. A simple majority vote is required to pass levies that are between $2.78 and $6.00, and for a levy of more than $6.00, a two-thirds majority vote is required. (Source)

    Historically, levies have been used to hire teachers, increase existing teacher salaries, make capital updates, and help with general operating expenses for Missouri’s schools.

    This 2013 levy in Springfield, Missouri was designed to hire more teachers for the district, so that the number of educators there kept pace with the district’s growing enrollment.

    In 2014, in Warrensburg, an operating tax levy was proposed to help “offset the decline in state funding over the last five years, increase staff salaries, add two school resource officers and upgrade technology.” (Source)

    And this year, as you prepare to go your local polls, you might see a proposed operating levy increase as well.

    Public schools in Independence, Missouri hope to see a 24-cent increase this year. The district could raise $2 million annually through its levy increase, enabling it to hire teachers, offer competitive teacher salaries, and invest in professional development, technology, and building maintenance costs. (Source)

    And Dallas County, in Southwest Missouri, is also looking for an operating levy increase. The district would use the new funds for a combination of capital projects, teacher hiring and retention, and “additional needs of the district.” These “additional needs” are the type of needs that operating levies, but not bond issues, can help fund.

    Missouri Parent aims to help you better understand funding and legislation that affects your child’s K-12 public education in the State of Missouri. If you found this post helpful, you might like this post explaining school bond issues. Bookmark Missouri Parent News and connect with us on Facebook and Twitter to continue to learn more about Missouri public schools.


  • What Missouri’s Teachers Are Saying About Amendment 3

     

     

     

    Constitutional Amendment 3 is the single most pressing issue on the ballot in Missouri this fall. Teachers believe that the Amendment is detrimental to student learning and that it forces a one-size-fits all approach to teaching. Keep reading to learn more about Amendment 3, and to hear what Missouri’s teachers have to say about it.

    About Amendment 3
    Constitutional Amendment 3 will result in huge changes to Missouri public school education. A reform advocacy group called Teach Great petitioned to add Amendment 3 to the November 4th General Election ballot, and although Teach Great recently shut down, Amendment 3 remains on the ballot.

    What Amendment 3 Says
    Amendment 3 does three things to education: It threatens local control; it ties teacher’s salaries and evaluations directly to expensive new standardized tests; and it forces a one-size-fits-all approach.

    Specifically, Amendment 3 says:

    Shall the Missouri Constitution be amended to:
    · Require teachers to be evaluated by a standards based performance evaluation system for which each local school district must receive state approval to continue receiving state and local funding;
    · Require teachers to be dismissed, retained, demoted, promoted and paid primarily using quantifiable student performance data as part of the evaluation system;
    · Require teachers to enter into contracts of three years or fewer with public school districts; and prohibit teachers from organizing or collectively bargaining regarding the design and implementation of the teacher evaluation system.

    Learn More: What Amendment 3 Means for Schools

    A Threat To Local Control
    According to Amendment 3, the state would be responsible for creating and administering new standardized that would be used to evaluate students and teachers. Missouri educators don’t agree that the state knows better than districts do what’s best for their students.

    “Parents and teachers know what’s best for local schools,” says Katy Schwartz-Drowns, a teacher in St. Joseph. (source)

    Missouri teachers aren’t alone. In fact, the vast majority of Americans believe that local communities (not state- or federal-level leaders) should have the most influence over decisions about public school education. Amendment 3 puts our schools’ futures in the hands of the state, instead of in the care of principals, superintendents, parents, and school boards.

    Robyn Behen, a Jefferson City teacher says that,

    “After 20 years in the classroom, I know that the people who know best about teaching, education, and what our students need are the teachers that have been trained for that profession and the parents. Our local communities are the ones that know what they want their local students to know.” (source)

    Amendment 3 says that what our local communities think doesn’t matter, and that a state-issued standardized test in each subject area will provide the information schools need in order to make decisions about a teacher’s pay, promotion, or release from responsibility. Missouri teachers, on the other hand, believe that expensive new tests will be detrimental to school budgets.

    New Standardized Tests: A Financial Burden
    The expenses associated with developing and maintaining these new standardized tests will fall to local schools, districts, and taxpayers, many of whom are already struggling to support students’ needs.

    Amy Kelsey, a teacher in rural Easton, Missouri, talked to the Missouri State Teachers Association, saying that Amendment 3 could affect not just local schools, but entire communities:

    “My school district will not be able to come up with the money it’s going to take to fund all these tests and then to maintain them, and school districts are the heart of every community. So if your school district cannot do this, they will close. And then your town is going to dry up because you’re going to be taking kids—for us, we’d probably have to be taking kids 20 to 30 miles away. And that’s not good for schools, that’s not good for kids, that’s not good for our community.” (source)

    Amendment 3 will be devastating to small schools and to rural districts with limited local funding. Even districts that have a history of strong funding and public recognition are concerned about the strain these new tests will put on school budgets, though. Michael Kuhn, a teacher in the Lindbergh School District, said that:

    “Amendment 3 is an imposition on our community, removing local control, evaluating teachers on a single standardized test, and it threatens to drain our budget with mandated standardized testing costs.” (source)

    Local taxpayers should not have to foot the bill for Teach Great’s fly-by-night reform attempts. Amendment 3 creates testing expenses that are neither acceptable to local communities nor sustainable based on their local tax revenues.

    Learn More: Where Does Missouri’s Education Funding Come From?

    A One-Size-Fits-All Approach
    If Amendment 3 passes, standardized tests will be created for every subject area, including those areas not currently subject to standardized testing. How can a standardized test creativity or innovation?

    “Vote no on Amendment 3 and help bring creativity and critical thinking back to education,” said Anna Griesbach, a computer teacher in Kansas City Public Schools. “It is not good for our kids or for Missouri.” (source)

    How can a standardized test account for how far a student has come to make up for life circumstances that fall outside of his or her control? How can a standardized test measure the skills like showing up, being on time, working well with classmates, or following directions—skills our students need in order to be college and career ready?

    Amendment 3 brushes these very meaningful aspects of a child’s holistic school experience aside, measuring his or her success by a quantitative figure on a standardized test score instead.

    “It [Amendment 3] is looking at students as if they are numbers,” said Dr. Lisa Hinton, a 3rd grade teacher “instead of living, breathing, human beings, and it will affect their education immensely.” (source)

    Amendment 3 is an expensive, one-size-fits-all, non-solution that takes control away from the same educational leaders that the vast majority of Americans believe should have the most influence on public education. As Karin Schafer, a teacher in Blue Springs R-4 puts it, a one-size-fits-all approach “is not something that is truly showing what a child’s potential is.” (source)

    Missouri doesn’t need expensive tests that will turn local school budgets upside down and turn the potential of our living, breathing children into inhuman, one-dimensional test scores. On November 4th, it’s critical that Missouri parents, teachers, administrators, and community members rally together at the polls to vote no on Amendment 3.

    Missouri Parent’s mission includes helping parents to understand legislative and funding issues facing Missouri’s public schools. Come back often to the Missouri Parent Blog, and connect with us on Facebook and Twitter to stay in the know about your child’s public school education.

    Learn More:
    Teach Great Shuts its Doors, but Amendment 3 Still Stands

    What is ‘Teach Great’?

    Missouri’s Educational Associations Plead: Vote No on Amendment 3

    #MoNoOn3: A Constitutional Amendment Affecting Public Schools



  • The Doors Have Shut, but the Amendment Stands

    Not long after we published this post explaining what Teach Great was and what the Teach Great initiative was all about, news broke that the organization, backed by activist Rex Sinquefield, had ended its Amendment 3 campaign.

    Just a few days later Teach Great made the news again. This time it announced that the organization was closing down completely. This is good news for public education, but although Teach Great’s doors are shut and its website is offline, the damages it initiated still threaten Missouri schools: Constitutional Amendment 3 is still on the November 4 General Election ballot.

    What Amendment 3 Will Do
    Amendment 3 will cause an increase in district expenses that could crush lower-income schools. It will require students to take even more standardized tests in even more subject areas, and those tests, along with their direct ties to teacher evaluation and pay, will take local control away from schools.

    Learn More: What Amendment 3 means for Missouri schools.

    1) State-Approved Standardized Tests in All Subjects
    Amendment 3’s standardized tests will take control away from families, teachers, and principals in local districts at a time when the majority of citizens believe that the local school board should have the greatest influence—more so than the state or federal government—on what is taught (and tested) in public schools.

    Teachers, including Katie Webb of Hannibal, Missouri, oppose this increase in state-run tests:

    “As a teacher I oppose Amendment 3 because I dislike the increase in state mandated testing. As a music teacher, I celebrate achievements in my students that might not be academic.” (source)

    Webb isn’t the only teacher who is concerned that Amendment 3 will over-simplify the meaning of achievement in public schools. College and career ready students don’t simply test well, they have good attendance, exhibit leadership and teamwork skills, and they often demonstrate success in non-traditional skill sets like those in physical education or creative arts.

    Amendment 3 puts undue emphasis on a single test (per subject) that is administered once each year—something most students are not likely to experience again in college or career. It does not help Missouri’s students to become college or career ready; it forces an impractical “one-size-fits-all” approach on teachers and students, alike.

    Learn More: Amendment 3 & teacher tenure.

    2) A “One-Size-Fits-All” Approach
    By tying teacher pay and evaluations to state-mandated tests, Amendment 3 forces a one-size-fits-all approach to education. A teacher’s livelihood will be directly connected to how his or her students do on state testing, incentivizing teachers to “teach to the test” rather to teach to the needs of the individual student’s disposition, skills, and situation.

    Amy Kelsey, a teacher in East Buchanon Co. C-1 Schools says:

    “Every kid is different. Every kid has different needs, and it’s very important that we meet with those needs. Our society, I would think, would not want everyone to be the same. It is important for the teachers, the parents, the administrators—we are one community as a school—and for that community to work, we need to work together.” (source)

    Students learn in different ways, and they express their knowledge and understanding uniquely, as well. No one knows this better than the teachers who work with students, their parents, and their districts every day. The kind of partnership that Ms. Kelsey alludes to—in which schools and the community work together—could crumble under the financial burden of Amendment 3.

    3) Cost to Local Schools
    Amendment 3 will cost upwards of $1 billion; an expense that would fall on the shoulders of local school districts. An expensive top-down mandate would introduce new financial concerns to already strapped school districts like many of those in rural Missouri.

    “I live in a rural community. My school is not going to be able to afford the hit it’s going to take if this bill passes. My school district will not be able to come up with the money it’s going to take to create these tests and then to maintain them,” Kelsey told the Missouri State Teachers Association. (source)

    Learn More: The Facts About Amendment 3.

    To add insult to injury, student test scores would be linked directly to their teachers’ evaluations and pay scales. Schools in low-income schools like many of those in rural Missouri already struggle to hire and retain great teachers.

    If student performance (which is negatively impacted by factors outside the teacher’s control) is poor, teachers in those schools could lose their jobs. These schools can’t afford one more barrier to entry in their pursuit of great teaching professionals.

    These costs, the one-size-fits-all approach that Amendment 3 will force onto schools, and the loss of local control are altogether bad for Missouri public schools. Teach Great’s doors might be closed, but Amendment 3 remains on the ballot.

    Encourage friends, family, and colleagues to go to the polls on November 4th to vote “no” on Constitutional Amendment 3.

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  • Public Opinion: School Decisions Should be Kept Local

     

     

    Each year Phi Delta Kappa International (PDK) and Gallup help track public opinion about America’s public schools. Families, education professionals, researchers, and policy makers have used the PDK/Gallup poll for 46 years with the common goal of improving U.S. schools.

    The poll surveys more than 1,000 American adults from May to June each year. This year’s poll offered a number of insights into public opinion on education, but one of those insights—in light of Missouri Amendment 3—stands out in light of recent discussions surrounding Amendment 3: Americans believe that local school boards (not the state or federal government) should have the biggest influence on decisions affecting our students.

    The question that Gallup asked Americans was, “In your opinion, who should have the greatest influence in deciding what is taught in the public schools here—the federal government, the state government, or the local school board?”

    The majority of poll participants, regardless of their political allegiances, said that the local school board should have the greatest influence on what is taught in public schools. 68% of Republicans, 45% of Democrats, 55% of Independents, and 60% of public school parents agreed that the greatest influence on public education should happen locally, rather than at the state or federal level.

    Missouri’s Constitutional Amendment 3 would shift influence away from local school boards. The Amendment, which will be on the November general election ballot, centers on using state-approved standardized test scores to evaluate your child’s teachers.

    Paul Morris, a member of the Ferguson-Florissant school board says, “This top-down mandate would shift local control away from parents, teachers and school districts, while implementing unfunded, statewide standardized tests.We all know funding is already a problem for many of our schools, and implementing more standardized tests will take even more money out of the classroom." (source)

    Missouri Amendment 3 will require teachers to be evaluated quantitatively based on student scores on standardized tests. These tests (and teacher evaluations) wouldn’t just be for subjects like mathematics that have clear “right” and “wrong” answers. Teachers of subjective content areas like the Arts, music, and literature would also be evaluated based on their students’ standardized test scores.

    Learn more about Constitutional Amendment 3

    School principals, superintendents, and school boards would no longer be able to offer subjective evaluations of the teachers they see day-in and day-out. Instead, the state would be responsible for approving the standardized tests that Missouri’s students would take, the results of which would determine the future of our state’s teachers.

    This kind of extreme reform presented in Missouri Amendment 3 goes against what the majority of Americans want: for the greatest influence on education to come from their local school boards.

    Although the campaign behind Amendment 3 has suspended its current efforts, the Amendment remains on the November general election ballot. If you, like most other Americans, believe that control of our schools should remain in the hands of local school boards, superintendents, and principals, please go to the polls on November 4th and join thousands of other Missourians who will vote NO on Missouri Amendment 3.





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