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Browsing Posts published in February, 2012

Missouri NEA Legislative Update
Week 9, No. 2, February 28, 2012
By Otto Fajen   
MNEA Legislative Director


The House Rules Committee failed to take up and consider HCS/HB 1740 (Scott Dieckhaus) at its meeting February 28.  The House Rules Committee is a gatekeeper committee that determines whether a bill approved by the committee of origin should be placed on the calendar.  The bill can not be taken up for floor action until taken up and approved by the Rules Committee.  No hearing on the bill is scheduled at this time.  Majority caucus members have been called into several lengthy caucus meetings this week where the bill has been discussed extensively, as support for the bill is a caucus position.

The Association strongly opposes the tenure repeal, charter school expansion, virtual school open enrollment and tax credit-style voucher portions of the bill. Legislative action is needed on several issues included in the bill, such as stabilizing formula aid next year, creating fair standards for student transfers from unaccredited districts and allowing prompt intervention by the State Board in support of unaccredited districts and their communities.  The Association opposes holding those positive steps hostage to a radical and unworkable agenda.

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Here’s the latest update on the dangerous move by both houses now against the provisions that provide a good education for our students. (and one small glimmer of light in a house higher education committee calling for student representation on the University of Missouri Board of Curators).

Missouri NEA Legislative Update
Week 9, No. 1, February 27, 2012
By Otto Fajen
MNEA Legislative Director


The Senate General Laws Committee will hear SB 806 (Jane Cunningham) on February 28. The Association strongly opposes the bill.  The bill eliminates the current tenure law for all teachers, and places all new hires on one-year contracts beginning in the 2013-14 school year.  The bill allows contracts of up to four years, at district discretion.  The bill eliminates seniority as a factor in decisions regarding reduction in force.  The bill also includes numerous mandates regarding teacher evaluation systems, such as requiring at least fifty percent of evaluations to be based on student test scores and prohibiting districts and employees from designing evaluation systems within collective bargaining negotiations.

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Economist Dean Baker takes on an issue that has been one of my pet peeve’s – media reports and right-wing accusations that President Obama ignored the Deficit Commission recommendations.  To top it off, it is often said with an air of disbelief that such common sense, consensual recommendations aren’t law already!

For the Deficit Committion to issue a report required 14 of the members to agree on its contents.  This never happened – thankfully.  Thus, NO REPORT WAS EVER ISSUED.  Despite this fact, everyone from Meet the Press host Dick Gregory to Rush Limbaugh continually states there was a report from the Deficit Commissiion.

Dean puts it this way in his latest blog post:

The New York Times badly misled readers by repeatedly referring to a report of the deficit reduction commission led by former Senator Alan Simpson and Morgan Stanley Director Erskine Bowles. There was no report from this commission.

The report discussed in this article was exclusively the report of the co-chairs. It did not receive the necessary support of 14 members of the commission that would have made it an official commission report, a point noted only in passing toward the end of the piece.

This mis-characterization is extremely important in the context of the piece, because the main point of the article is that President Obama ignored the report of a commission he appointed. Since this commission did not approve a report, the premise of the article is wrong.

The piece also misled readers when it asserted that, “benefits for an aging population soon would increase deficits to unsustainable levels.” In fact, the main problem is rising private sector health care costs that were projected to make Medicare and Medicaid unaffordable. The increased costs due to aging alone are quite gradual and affordable.


The vote is due this coming Tuesday. It’s very easy to email your representative using the form found at:

It contains a brief summary and editable message box to send your personal opinion to your representative.

Missouri NEA Special Legislative Action Alert
February 24, 2012
By Otto Fajen  
MNEA Legislative Director


The House is expected to take up HCS/HB 1740 (Scott Dieckhaus on February 28.  The House Elementary and Secondary Education Committee approved an HCS version of HB 1740 on February 22 in a contentious executive session.
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The combination of the upcoming election cycle, political revenge, and enormous profits have started yet another cycle of rising gas prices and pain for the 99% of Americans that are hurt by this nauseating dance.

Today, ABC News ran an interesting story on the role of Wall Street speculation on rising gas prices.  Thom Hartmann takes this concept into more detail with his Daily Take video segment.

Could the oil industry be working with Wall Street in an effort to enrich each other at your expense?  Could the oil industry be attempting a little payback for President Obama’s decision on the Keystone XL pipeline?  Does a headline like “Oil Executive Threatens Obama Over Keystone XL” sound like something is up?

The largest energy firm in America is attacking President Obama, insisting that the White House’s refusal to cooperate with the Keystone XL pipeline will cause the commander-in-chief to suffer in the 2012 election.

Never mind that domestic oil production at at an all-time high or America’s top export is now refined petroleum products!

For the first time, the top export of the United States, the world’s biggest gas guzzler, is — wait for it — fuel.

Measured in dollars, the nation is on pace this year to ship more gasoline, diesel, and jet fuel than any other single export, according to U.S. Census data going back to 1990. It will also be the first year in more than 60 that America has been a net exporter of these fuels.

Obviously, “drill baby drill” is questionable policy if we are already refining and exporting the oil we already have.  Only time will tell if the Republicans can use rising gas prices as one of the few economic issues at their disposal to sway public opinion.  I believe most Americans will rely on fact as oppossed to the parallel universe of Fox News fiction.

Making a full frontal attack on education, Scott Dieckhaus bulldozes this omnibus bill.

Notice his rude refusal of recognition to Reps. Aull and McNeil

(I submit only this item from the past three days of Otto Fajen’s report because of its egregious attack on education and the manner(s) of its proposer. Please contact your Reps for corrective action in this matter.)

Missouri NEA Weekly Legislative Update   Week 8, No. 3, February 22, 2012

By Otto Fajen   MNEA Legislative Director


The House Elementary and Secondary Education Committee approved an HCS version for HB 1740 (Scott Dieckhaus) on February 22 in a contentious executive session.

The HCS:

1 repeals teacher tenure for all new hires and eliminates use of seniority in reduction in force,

2 repeals the minimum teacher salary for teachers with Master’s degrees and ten or more years of teaching,

3 contains a tax-credit style voucher for students of unaccredited districts to attend private schools,

4 adds charter school expansion and accountability similar to HCS/HB 1228 (Tishaura Jones),

5 creates statewide virtual district school and virtual charter school open enrollment,

6 includes provisions allowing accredited districts to establish class-size capacity standards with regard to student transfers from unaccredited districts,

7 contains the provisions of HCS/HB 1174 (Mike Lair) to allow the State Board of Education to hold a hearing and act to revise the governance of a school district when it becomes unaccredited, rather than automatically lapsing the district after two years, and

8 contains the provisions of HCS/HB 1043 (Mike Thomson) regarding distribution of school formula funds when the formula is underfunded.

Rep. Joe Aull attempted to divide the question to allow a separate vote on tenure repeal, but Rep. Dieckhaus would not recognize him to make that motion.  Rep. Dieckhaus also denied Rep. Margo McNeil further time to speak to her concerns on the bill when she described the tax credit provision as a voucher.

The committee ultimately approved the HCS without amendment by a 13-9 vote.  Reps. Dieckhaus, Cookson, Bahr, Barnes, Burlison, Cierpiot, Funderburk, Leara, McNary, Neth, Schad, Scharnhorst and Stream voted in favor.  Reps. Anders, Aull, Fitzwater, (Tishaura) Jones, Lampe, McNeil, Shively, Swinger and Thomson voted against the bill.  Reps. Carter and Frederick were not present for the vote.

The Association strongly opposes the tenure repeal, charter school expansion, virtual school open enrollment and tax credit-style voucher portions of the bill.  Stay tuned for an upcoming action alert to all state representatives concerning HB 1740.  The bill is likely to be brought to the House floor for debate early next week.


Intelligent beings managing things

“We were put on this Earth as creatures of God to have dominion over the Earth, to use it wisely and steward it wisely, but for our benefit not for the Earth’s benefit,” Santorum told an audience at the Colorado School of Mines where he was a guest speaker Monday at the Colorado Energy Summit.

We are the intelligent beings that know how to manage things and through the course of science and discovery if we can be better stewards of this environment, then we should not let the vagaries of nature destroy what we have helped create,” Santorum said to applause from the conservative crowd.

It’s disturbing enough that we now have mainstream politicians who publicly articulate ideas that were once considered far outside the window of political acceptability, but to say them and generate a room full of applause instead of gasps of disbelief is simply mind blowing.

Last weekend I had the opportunity to take my daughter to the Jefferson National Expansion Museum and to the top of the Arch in downtown St. Louis.  Even with the TSA-style security check, $15 tram fee, and $7.50 movie tickets to see “Monument to the Dream” the day was an enjoyable one.   The building of the arch involved several trades but most notably the Ironworkers that earned $5.25 p/hour on this job and the Crane Operators of the International Union of Operating Engineers which earned $7.25 p/hour.  If you have seen the movie or saw the construction in real time it is hard to deny they earned their money.

Being of a person of political interests i could not resist thinking of Peter Kinder, Ron Paul, and Mitt Romney’s opposition to the Prevailing Wage and wonder could we have built the arch on the cheap?  If a contractor from Backwater, USA was the low bidcer on this federal project would it have turned out the same?  Could Darryl, Darryl, and their brother Darryl have kept the opposing legs of the arch within a tolerance of 1/64th of an inch?  Who knows, maybe we could have had a two-legged viewing platform 400 feet in the sky instead of legs that meet at the top.  Of course, without the prevailing wage the middle class would be much harder to see.

Sadly, in our short-attention-span, fast-food nation, if you can’t distill your political campaign down to a slogan that will fit neatly onto a bumper sticker you are probably going to have trouble connecting with voters. Josh Marshall at TPM has a suggestion for team Obama:

GM is alive; bin Laden is dead.

  • On Monday, they wanted to fund religious institutions (i.e., private corporations)
  • On Tuesday, Valentine’s Day, they wanted to fund more private corporations, Virtual Charter Schools AND wanted to tamper with and make more political Missouri’s Non-Partisan Court Plan
  • On Wednesday, Curtman offers HCR41 to oppose Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act from Missouri

NEA Legislative Update  
Week 7, No. 2, February 14, 2012
By Otto Fajen
MNEA Legislative Director


The Senate General Laws Committee approved SCS/SB 451 (Jane Cunningham) on February 14.  The original bill pertained only to additional authority regarding shared educational services, but the SCS incorporates the provisions of SB 706 (Jane Cunningham) relating to unaccredited districts.

SCS/SB 451 includes numerous provisions regarding unaccredited districts, including a tax-credit style voucher for students of unaccredited districts to attend private schools and authority for other districts or district cooperatives to operate charter schools in unaccredited districts.
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