The online hub of the Missouri School Administrators Coalition.

Bulletin #12: Common Core Debate Heats Up In Senate

The Senate Education Committee last week took nearly two hours of testimony opposed to the Common Core State Standards. The testimony was on two bills, SB 514 and SB 798 sponsored by Senators John Lamping (R-Ladue) and Ed Emery (R-Lamar) which would prohibit the implementation of the Common Core in Missouri. Because time ran out on the committee to finish hearing each of these bills, the committee will reconvene to take testimony on Wednesday. Supporters of Common Core will be given around a hour to testify.

The threat to abandoning the Common Core is becoming very real at the Missouri State Capitol. Administrators should be having discussions with their legislators regarding the issue of Common Core. It should be pointed out that for years, schools have been beat up by the business community, higher education community, and politicians for not having rigorous standards and the Common Core is the response to those concerns, now those same politicians seem to be changing their minds. 

A few other points that can be pointed out to your legislators...

  • The Missouri Learning Standards simply provide a framework by which Missouri will develop MAP tests; they are NOT curriculum. Districts maintain complete control of their ability to write their curriculum, while teachers are allowed the flexibility in how to teach their students.
  • Repealing the Missouri Learning Standards would be an irresponsible and expensive action for the Missouri Legislature to take. Districts have spent nearly four years moving to these new higher standards. This represents MILLIONS of dollars and THOUSANDS of hours in professional development. Abandoning this work would have a devastating impact on teacher moral moving forward and DESE, the Missouri Legislature, school districts, and administrators would lose a ton of credibility for any initiative moving forward.
  • The federal and state mandated testing footprint will be minimized under the new test schedule that the state will begin using with the Missouri Learning Standards in 2015, including giving the ACT to every student. This change was made due to concerns from educators and SAC organizations. We would support a further reduction in the federal and state mandated testing footprint, but we fully support the new test schedule to be used for the foreseeable future.
  • If Common Core were to be repealed, we would expect policymakers and politicians to stop utilizing unfair comparisons on performance with other states that have different levels of rigor in state standards. The Common Core State Standards were developed because policy makers and politicians that have continually attempted to compare one state to another with out a set of standards that allowed the comparison to be fair.
  • The Common Core State Standards represent work that was done between policy makers, politicians, educators, business leaders, and the higher education community in order to ensure that students that graduate high school are fully prepared for their post-secondary goals. Employers would be able to get a more accurate indication of the educational level of a student with a high school diploma, while higher education institutions can now begin moving to better place students in their class offerings, thus reducing the need for remedial courses.
  • With an ever-increasing population of students that are mobile, the Missouri Learning Standards allow for schools and students to smoothly transition from one school or district to another. Schools would be better equipped and assured of where a student is at in their educational career and thus have more time to focus on meeting the needs of that student with out wasting as much time trying to figure out where to place new students.

It is unlikely that there will be many individuals that will be able to testify during Wednesday's committee meeting, as total testimony will be limited to one hour. Because of this, if you would like to share your thoughts on Common Core beyond just your Senator, administrators are encouraged to also email the members of the Senate Education Committee. 

Senate Finalizes Tax Cut Bill, Will Be Voted This Week

The Missouri Senate finalized the details of SB 509 sponsored by Sen. Will Kraus (R - Lee's Summit). The bill which has had many iterations over the last several weeks after an agreement between Sen. Kraus and Governor Jay Nixon was rejected by fellow Senators. That deal would have ensured that no tax cut would have taken place until Missouri's foundation formula for schools was fully funded and two of Missouri's runaway tax credit programs were reigned in by the General Assembly. The agreement was also limited to a tax cut for individuals rather than for corporations. 

Senators from both sides of the aisle rejected this agreement and the Senate was forced to go a different direction. Unfortunately, the direction SB 509 takes Missouri is largely down the same path that HB 253 from last year. The finalized version of SB 509 contains the following provisions...

  • Missouri's top income tax rate would be cut from 6 to 5.5 percent.

  • Businesses would receive a deduction of 25 percent on their income taxes each year. 

  • Individuals making less than $20,000 would see an increase to their personal exemption of $500. 

According to various estimates, the overall cost to the current version of SB 509 ranges from $620 million to $700 million.

The passage of SB 509 comes at the same time as an analysis from the Center for Budget & Policy Priorities comes out warning states of the effects of tax cuts in the state of Kansas two years ago. That report can be found here.

  • Deep income tax cuts caused large revenue losses.  Kansas’ tax cuts this year are costing the state about 8 percent of the revenue it uses to fund schools, health care, and other public services, a hit comparable to a mid-sized recession.  State data show that the revenue loss will rise to 16 percent in five years if the tax cuts are not reversed.
  • The large revenue losses extended and deepened the recession’s damage to schools and other state services.  Most states are restoring funding for schools after years of significant cuts, but in Kansas the cuts continue.  Governor Sam Brownback recently proposed another reduction in per-pupil general school aid for next year, which would leave funding 17 percent below pre-recession levels.  Funding for other services — colleges and universities, libraries, and local health departments, among others — also is way down, and declining.
  • The tax cuts delivered lopsided benefits to the wealthy.  Kansas’ tax cuts didn’t benefit everyone.  Most of the benefits went to high-income households.  Kansas even raised taxes for low-income families to offset a portion of the revenue loss; otherwise the cuts to schools and other services would have been greater still.
  • Kansas’ tax cuts haven’t boosted its economy.  Since the tax cuts took effect at the beginning of 2013, Kansas has added jobs at a pace modestly slower than the country as a whole.  The earnings and incomes of Kansans have performed slightly worse than the U.S. as a whole as well. 
  • There’s little evidence to suggest that Kansas’ tax cuts will improve its economy in the future.  The latest official state revenue forecast, from November 2013, projects Kansas personal income will grow more slowly than total national personal income in 2014 and 2015.

SAC is opposed to SB 509.

2015 Budget Bills Pass House, Supplemental Budget Bill Passes Senate

The Missouri House finalized their version of the state budget for fiscal year 2015, with little change from the version we discussed in last week's bulletin. The bill now heads to the Senate for their consideration. The following items are still included in the budget and were not changed during debate on the House floor. 

  • $278 million in formula funding. ($122 million is guaranteed general revenue & up to $156 million would be appropriated if 2015 state revenues grow more than 4.2%)
  • $25 million for transportation over the current year's appropriated amount
  • $26 million for the new testing plan being implemented by DESE. This includes funding to pay for one administration of the ACT for every eleventh grader in the state
  • $3.5 million for reading instruction in provisionally and unaccredited school districts

Meanwhile, the Senate finalized their version of HB 2014, Missouri supplemental budget bill for the current fiscal year. Unfortunately, the Senate followed the House's lead and failed to supplant all of the shortfall in gaming and lottery revenues that the Governor had requested be included in the bill. As it stands now, gaming and lottery revenues are expected to be between $44 and $60 million short of the assumptions lawmakers used in crafting the budget. Governor Nixon requested an additional $44 million of general revenue to be plugged in to fill the hole. The House appropriated half of that amount at $22 million. The Senate failed to increase that amount any further. 

The bill will now head to a conference committee so that the House and Senate can work out the differences in the bill. As of now the only difference relating to education is in regards to money for the Normandy School District that would be available to keep the district solvent through the end of the year. The House initially approved $5 million and the Senate cut the amount to $1.5 million. The two bodies will now begin negotiations to work out those differences.