OPINION: The Missouri Legislature’s big education bill sham

Why I voted ‘no’ on SB 727

(D-St. Louis County)

The Missouri Legislature has a Republican supermajority that is not a friend to public education, which I believe is the cornerstone of democracy, lifts people out of poverty, contributes to a better quality of life and improves the economy.

They use their supermajority and every gimmick possible to give the illusion that public education is important to them, while advancing legislation that is detrimental to our public schools. Those gimmicks include things like voting for charter schools and vouchers to attend private schools that no communities in the state have asked for.

As a matter of fact, education experts say these gimmicks undercut resources to the public schools in those communities. These same Republicans do the bidding of millionaire school-choice advocates like the Opportunity Trust to make sure these gimmicks become law.

Under this backdrop, I want to share why I voted no on Senate Bill 727 last session.

Many in the Republican majority are masters of deception. For example, they give bills names like so-called “right-to-work” or “Paycheck Protection,” so they sound like they are aimed at benefiting workers. In reality, what they are really about is weakening or even destroying Labor unions to the detriment of the working class.

Another deceptive practice that they use is to create giant omnibus bills, like SB 727, which are packed with a few things that most reasonable people agree upon but also include hidden gifts for their special-interest supporters — like the millionaire-funded school-choice advocates.

They know full well that the things reasonable people agree upon as being beneficial to public education will not be funded in the new state budget. Yet those hidden special-interest gifts will be fully implemented under the new bill.

SB 727 calls for much-needed increased minimum salaries for our teachers in mostly rural areas of the state, increased funding for pre-K and other items beneficial to public schools and supported by most reasonable people.

However, that bill also included a provision for expanding charter schools and vouchers that give away tax dollars to private schools in order to satisfy the special-interest millionaire school-choice crowd.

According to the Missouri Independent, state education officials are preparing for “the mother of all supplemental budgets” later this year. That’s because the state budget adopted in the recently ended legislative session doesn’t include enough money to fund the increase in teacher pay or pre-K that was promised with SB 727. I believe its inclusion in the bill was just a gimmick to give cover to some legislators who voted for it — as well as to fool the public into thinking the bill was of some benefit to the public schools.

For the provisions for increased teacher’s salaries and increased funding for pre-K to become a reality, the money must be agreed to during a supplemental budget process, which is unlikely to occur, since the Republican-controlled Legislature failed to include such funding in the state budget even as they passed SB 727. I pray that those needs will be funded, but that is highly unlikely in an environment of shrinking revenue and a Republican majority that has pledged to reduce corporate taxes.

If that funding is not forthcoming, there will be no increase in teachers’ salaries, nor increased benefits to pre-K education. This is reason why every major public education organization in Missouri opposed the bill, as did all Senate Democrats and all but three House Democrats.

Of course, if there is no funding for teacher salaries and for improvements in pre-K education, guess what would still happen? Expanded charter schools and private school vouchers, which will drain critically needed funds from our public schools.

Our Republican friends on the other side of the aisle and the three Democratic House members who passed SB727 should note that polls show Missouri’s electorate is far more interested in supporting existing public schools than expanding charter schools.

Let us also remember that education experts agree that both charter schools and vouchers hurt our public schools, and do not improve the quality of education offered to our students.

As a supporter of public schools, I am sure the voters will have the last word.

(Senator Angela Walton Mosley (D-St. Louis County)  is the Missouri AFL-CIO- endorsed candidate for the 13th Senatorial District, which encompass part of St. Louis County including Bellefontaine Neighbors, Blackjack and Florissant.)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top