Rep. Marilyn Ruestman, R-Joplin, says Missouri teachers had to be warned about possible cuts to Career Ladder so they would not do the work and not get paid for it. And those cuts, despite what several legislators are saying, are very much possible.
Of course, that is not how Career Ladder works. The teachers who participate in the program have always been at the mercy of the legislature. And the teachers will go ahead and do the work. The legislature has to decide if it will pay its portion.
Mrs. Ruestman's comments on Career Ladder were in her latest capitol report, published last week in district newspapers:
The General Assembly is not currently in session, but the work still continues. The largest issue on our minds, and yours, too, I'm sure, is the budget shortfall. Missouri is currently facing a revenue shortage of approximately seven percent. That leaves the House Budget Chairman in the unenviable position of having to make funding cuts to many programs.
One such program that has come to the forefront in the past few weeks is the Missouri Career Ladder for teachers. This program rewards teachers for various activities or duties they perform throughout the school year. Most of the funding for the program (60 percent) comes from the local school district and the state funds the remainder. About half of all school districts in the state participate in this program.
Several weeks ago, the House and Senate budget chairmen sente letters to school districts warming them that given our present budget situation, we may have to make cuts to the program. There are three key things to remember.
We DO NOT anticipate cutting the Career Ladder funding, but since it's paid in arrears, we owe it to our teachers to warn them about the budget situation and the possibility of a cut so they don't complete work for which they won't be paid.
The current Republican majority in the General Assembly has appropriated more funding to education than any other General Assembly in history. WE WILL NOT RAISE TAXES TO CLOSE THE BUDGET GAP!
In addition to continuing to work in communities and on the budget, the General Assembly has a constitutional requirement to meet in mid-September for veto session. This is our opportunity to override any vetoes the governor has handed back. This summer, the governor vetoed House Bill 544 which put the Missouri Accountability Portal into state law. The accountability portal was created by Gov. Matt Blunt to make the state government completely transparent to its citizens.
HB 544 passed during session by an overwhelming vote of 144 to 10. That is well over the two-thirds required for an override. In a massive flip-flop, members of the minority caucus who voted for the bill during session, switched their vote during veto session preventing an override of the veto. I wonder why those members who previously supported transparency and accountability no longer felt it necessary or important.
As a new session is quickly approaching, I will continue to keep you informed of budget, accountability, and education issues. The 2010 Session will be my last one in the House. I am happy to report that my colleagues and I have kept our commitments to the following:
-A balanced budget without any tax increase
-Keeping education as our budget priority
-Transparency and accountability in state government