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Public education under attack in Missouri

MO quarter
By United States Mint [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Public education in Missouri is under attack by both petitions for voter initiatives and Republicans in the State House of Representatives. It's getting so bad that Missouri is getting national attention on the same level as Kansas. Let's take a look at the problems with each one.

The first petition going around wants to include the following language on the November ballot:

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?

Decisions by school districts regarding provisions allowed or required by this proposal and their implementation will influence the potential costs or savings impacting each district. Significant potential costs may be incurred by the state and/or the districts if new/additional evaluation instruments must be developed to satisfy the proposal’s performance evaluation requirements.

Never mind all of the arguments about how inaccurate it is to assume a teacher's proficiency using quantifiable data, considering all of the unaccounted for variables in every child. How about the way it makes collective bargaining unconstitutional? The language of this petition takes away what little bargaining power one of the most under-paid, under-appreciated, and most-needed professions has in this state.

As if that's not bad enough, here's the other petition:

Shall the Missouri Constitution be amended to:

  • create a tax credit for donations made to nonprofit corporations that provide funds to improve programs in public school districts, provide scholarships for students to attend qualified private or parochial elementary or secondary schools, or support special education services for children;
  • limit the tax credit to $50,000 annually per individual or business entity, and cap the entire credit at $90 million annually; and
  • repeal any constitutional provisions that prohibit taxpayer funds from being used to aid private or parochial elementary or secondary schools that qualify for the funding in this measure?

Any decrease in state revenue will depend on the redemption of tax credits issued related to this proposal, initially limited to $90 million per year. Increased annual state operating expenses are expected to be initially about $120,000. Each individual school district will experience an unknown annual change in revenue.

So here we have them trying to use tax payer money for religious schools. They also seem to be trying to force public schools into relying on charitable donations. Public education will be underfunded while the rich get tax breaks for their kids' educations at private and parochial schools. Though, the bills being proposed in the state House of Representatives seem to be trying to turn public schools into religious schools.

First we have House Bill 1587, sponsored by Andrew Koenig and co-sponsored by Rick Brattin. If you only look at the summary of intent it seems completely innocuous.

Requires the State Board of Education and other public school entities to encourage students to explore scientific questions and to assist teaching of scientific theories of biological or chemical evolution

When you look at the language of the bill, what it actually does is gives teachers the right to promote intelligent design in their classrooms and prohibits administrators from interfering with them. It also, rather sneakily, tries to associate evolution with "nontheistic religious beliefs" as you can see in the following subsection:

3. This section only protects the teaching of scientific information and this section shall not be construed to promote any theistic or nontheistic religious doctrine, promote discrimination for or against a particular set of theistic or nontheistic religious beliefs, or promote discrimination for or against theistic or nontheistic religion. Scientific information includes physical evidence and logical inferences based upon evidence.

Of course, the only proof you really need to see that HB1587 is all about creationism is Rick Brattin is a cosigner. He has tried to get creationism into the classroom before, and he's trying again. Not only by cosigning HB1587, but also by sponsoring House Bill 1472.

Brattin is attempting to create an "opt-out" option for education that violates a parent's beliefs. HB1472 will require "schools teaching the theory of evolution by natural selection to have a policy on parental notification and a mechanism for opting out of such instruction."

Section A. Chapter 170, RSMo, is amended by adding thereto one new section, to be known as section 170.019, to read as follows:
170.019. 1. Any school district or charter school which provides instruction relating to the theory of evolution by natural selection shall be required to have a policy on parental notification and a mechanism where a parent can choose to remove the student from any part of the district's or school's instruction on evolution. The policy shall require the school district or charter school to notify the parent or legal guardian of each student enrolled in the district of:
(1) The basic content of the district's or school's evolution instruction to be provided to the student; and
(2) The parent's right to remove the student from any part of the district's or school's evolution instruction.
2. A school district or charter school shall make all curriculum materials used in the district's or school's evolution instruction available for public inspection under chapter 610 prior to the use of such materials in actual instruction.

So, not only would schools have to send home a note with every child to have their parents choose whether or not evolution is kosher, they also will have to spend more money they don't have making all of their evolution material available online even though no one who opposes evolution will ever bother looking at it.

This will most definitely result in an uneducated society. Many parents who wouldn't otherwise bother with their child's education will have no problem checking the "NO" box on a note asking if they approve of the godless evolution teachings in the evil secular science classes. Hopefully these bills never make their way out of committee.

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