Jefferson City, Mo – A St. Louis billionaire with a hostile agenda for rural Missouri schools has donated nearly $1 million dollars in his attempt to influence voters in four state legislative races in northeast, southeast and southwest Missouri. Rex Sinquefield is the billionaire. Representatives Nate Walker, Paul Fitzwater, Lyle Rowland, and Jeff Messenger are his targets.
The four Republican legislators are being attacked for a single vote in 2013 on HB 253 that would have raised taxes on college students and senior citizens and forced deep cuts to state support for rural schools. Because of these legislators’ NO vote, voters in those four rural districts have been bombarded with junk mail, telephone calls from New York, and deceiving television and radio ads over the past several weeks. The group paying for the hostile ads, the Missouri Club for Growth, has one donor, Rex Sinquefield.
“Voters shouldn’t be fooled. The attacks have been launched because these legislators oppose the education agenda of one man, nothing else,” said Republican State Representative Lyndall Fraker of Marshfield who also voted against the bill in question. “HB 253 was a bad bill that raised taxes and would have led to significant cuts in state education funding for our rural schools. These legislators have a track record of supporting legislation to grow Missouri’s economy but they differ with Mr. Sinquefield on education policy.”
Representative Don Phillips of Kimberling City, another Republican State Representative who opposed the bill, pointed out that Walker, Messenger, and Fitzwater scored near perfect marks on the 2014 Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry’s annual legislative scorecard that looks at all the votes cast during the legislative session and Rep. Rowland received the Defender of Prosperity award from the Missouri chapter of Americans for Prosperity, a conservative advocacy group with a similar economic philosophy to that of Sinquefield.
“These attacks are not about jobs or the economy, this is nothing more than a power play by one St. Louis billionaire in an attempt to defeat legislators who do not agree with him but instead value public education,” added Phillips.
Sinquefield has long pursued an agenda for education policy that runs contrary to that of practicing educators and the legislators in the General Assembly that support them. This agenda includes mandating public dollars be spent to send students to private schools, mandating more high-stakes standardized tests of those students in public schools, and dictating a one-size fits all teacher evaluation system that bases a teacher’s job security on high-stakes standardized test scores. Despite millions of dollars in campaign contributions and gifts from his lobbyists to his allies in the legislature, Sinquefield has been unsuccessful in accomplishing his agenda with legislators like Rowland, Messenger, Fitzwater, and Walker having played large rolls in defeating those initiatives.
“Communities, schools, and students are different across Missouri and it is insulting for one man to think he knows what is best over the professionals in the field,” said Roger Kurtz, executive director of the Missouri Association of School Administrators. “Voters need to see through the sham that’s being carried out in these districts and re-elect the legislators that are willing to buck a billionaire with an agenda to destroy their local schools.”
The August primary election takes place on August 5th. All four legislators are Republicans and are running in the Republican primary in their respected districts. In Missouri, during primary elections, voters must choose to take either a Republican or a Democratic ballot when they vote on Election Day.
Posted on Thu, July 24, 2014