Monday, January 07, 2013

Students First gives Missouri education a D grade

In a report issued today, StudentsFirst, the Michelle Rhee-led anti-public school group, has given Missouri education a "D" grade, ranking the state 34th out of 50.

The group recommends eliminating tenure for teachers, introducing vouchers to allow students to transfer to other public schools or to private schools, and basing teacher pay (and continued employment) on the results of standardized tests.

The StudentsFirst study recommends allowing mayors to take over underperforming schools. The introduction to the Missouri report reads as follows:

Currently, Missouri's education policies do not prioritize great teaching, empowering parents with quality choices, or allocating resources wisely to raise student achievement. The state is behind when it comes to enacting critical education reforms. Missouri has moved to improve its educator evaluations, but the new system is not meaningful, and districts are not required to link student performance, educator performance, and personnel decisions. The state should free teachers locked into the state's existing pension systems by offering more attractive, portable retirement options. Missouri could empower parents more by providing meaningful information regarding school and teacher performance. The state recently strengthened accountability for public charter schools and expanded authorization, both positive steps forward. State policy should prioritize the establishment and replication of high-performing schools as well. Finally, Missouri should allow mayors to take control in low-performing districts and strengthen the state's ability to intervene in low-performing schools.
The report was timed for release just as state legislatures across the country are about to begin their 2013 sessions and introduce some of the so-called reforms being pushed by StudentsFirst, an organization which exists by propagating the myth that all schools across the United States are failing and can be best served by privatizing them and eliminating all unions and protections for classroom teachers.

The StudentsFirst report also recommends that Missouri open its teaching ranks to more people who have not received education degrees.

The private school voucher recommendation is spelled out clearly. "Additionally, Missouri should create a publicly funded scholarship program that allows low-income students in chronically failing schools to attend a high-performing private school."

The report even gets into teachers' retirement plans, saying Missouri should abandon its present plan and move to a 401K.

Though many of the organizations' comments on this report card are laughable, you can expect them to become gospel for our GOP-led state legislature, especially when you consider that StudentsFirst has nine registered lobbyists in the state, including Michelle Rhee, and its goals are almost exactly like those expressed over the past few years by retired billionaire Rex Sinquefield.

As noted in the Turner Report Sunday, Senate President Pro Tem Tom Dempsey received a $50,000 campaign contribution from Sinquefield in 2012, plus $2,000 from Students First. It isn't any better in the other chamber, where Speaker of the House Tim Jones collected $100,000 from Sinquefield.

Dempsey and Jones are the men who decide which legislation will be heard in their chambers and which bills will never see the light of day.

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