Friday, May 04, 2012

Students First financial investment in Democratic legislators pays off

Two Democratic legislators, including Minority Leader Mike Talboy, D-Kansas City, who received campaign contributions from Michelle Rhee's Students First helped give the organization its first legislative victory in Missouri Thursday.

A watered down HB 1526 eliminating the use of seniority in determining teacher layoffs passed by an 83-78 margin, one vote more than necessary, with Talboy, who received a $1,000 contribution from Students First on March 27, and Penny Hubbard, D-St. Louis, who banked a $500 check the same day, voting on the winning side.

How the winning majority was obtained was described in a legislative report issued today by Missouri NEA:

The bill initially did not have the required constitutional majority of 82 votes, but the voting board was held open for nearly fifteen minutes while House Majority Floor Leader Tim Jones and other caucus leaders walked the floor, pressuring representatives to change their votes. Eventually, enough votes were changed to pass the bill by a vote of 83-76, one more than the required majority and the board was closed. 
Tim Jones also received a $1,000 campaign contribution from Students First. 

Missouri Ethics Commission documents indicate at least seven other representatives, received contributions from Students First. Anne Zerr, R-St. Charles; Jay Barnes, R-Jefferson City; Noel Torpey, R-Independence; Eric Burlison, R-Springfield; Kevin Elmer, R-Nixa; and Caleb Jones, R-California, received $500 checks and all voted for HB 1526.

Only one recipient of Students First money, Rep. Mike Colona, D-St. Louis, who received $1,000, voted against the bill.

Students First has been making a concerted effort to win over Democratic legislators in the Kansas City and St. Louis area, including a March 21 dinner at the lobbying offices of Penman & Winton. Missouri Ethics Commission records show David Winton reported buying $29 meals (presumably more than franks and beans) for Talboy, Gail Beatty, D-Kansas City; Chris Carter, D-St. Louis; Colona, Joseph Fallert, D-St. Genevieve; Rochelle Walton Gray, D-Blackjack; Jason Holsman, D-Kansas City; Jacob Hummel, D-St. Louis; Kevin McManus, D-Kansas City; Sharon Pace, D-Northwoods; John Joseph Rizzo, D-Kansas City; Cherie Spreng, D-Florrisant; and Steve Webb, D-Florrisant.

Winton's $389 expenditures on behalf of Students First helped garner yes votes for HB 1526 from Talboy, Carter, and Webb.

Another slap in the face for Missouri teachers. While portions of the bill requiring that standardized test scores be used as at least 50 percent of teacher evaluations were removed, this is undoubtedly the first step toward implementing this so-called reform.

It also opens the door for decisions on which teachers should be laid off to be based on personal reasons that have nothing whatsoever to do with education and (even though the bill says layoffs cannot be based on salaries) it is not hard to believe that creative administrators will find a way to save money by eliminating experienced teachers.

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