Schools in Kansas City, Missouri could fall under control of the state if the education reform bill currently under consideration in the state senate passes through the General Assembly without changes. The measure seeks to remove the two-year waiting period currently in place that keeps the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education from intervening in the running of an unaccredited school district.
According to The Missouri Times, the fact that state lawmakers were looking to take control of Kansas City and drafted the bill specifically with that district in mind is not a surprise. If the bill is signed into law, DESE could move to take over the running of the district as early as 30 days from now when the latest set of standardized test scores will be made public.
The DESE can take a number of steps to assert its control up to and including appointing a special administrative board and removing members currently serving on the district's board of education.
Rep. Gail McCann Beatty, D-Kansas City, said Kansas City public schools already have begun to make some changes that could impact the scores in a positive way, and that, coupled with enough improvement, could make intervention unnecessary.
"They've tried some new things there," McCann Beatty, who is also the assistant minority floor leader, told The Missouri Times. "Those of us representing Kansas City have been told by the superintendent and the school board that they will make great strides in this year and that we'll see improvement, and I hope that's true."
Although McCann Beatty expressed confidence that this year's scores will show improvement, she voted in support of the DESE bill, known as Senate Bill 125. She also voted for an earlier measure which included a system to evaluate school principals and administrators and make those evaluation grades the basis of continued employment.
Unsurprisingly, although SB 125 enjoys support in the Legislature, teachers unions across the state are vigorously opposing it. So far, House Speaker Tim Jones haven't been able to summon the votes for passage.
Evaluations may not come from the legislature though, if some education reform groups are successful.
Katie Casas, state director of the Children's Education Council of Missouri, said there is wide support among activists and voters for a ballot initiative to deal with teacher evaluations.
"We're very supportive of an effort to accomplish this on the ballot," Casas told The Missouri Times. "I just think real education reform might not happen fast enough in the Capital and we have the support of the voters, even if the legislators are not responding."