Saturday, February 29, 2020

Joplin man pleads guilty to federal meth trafficking, weapons charges

A Joplin man pleaded guilty Friday in U. S. District Court in Springfield to one charge of meth trafficking and one charge of being a felon in possession of a firearm.

Sentencing will be held at a later date for Christopher L. Meister, 42, whose crimes were detailed in a detention motion filed in March 2019 by the U. S. Attorney's office:

On March 11, 2019, officers conducted a controlled-delivery of a package suspected of containing narcotics to a residence in Joplin, Missouri. Defendant accepted the package and returned to the residence, at which time officers executed a previously obtained search warrant.

Defendant was found in the master bedroom with the package and a loaded, .45-caliber firearm within reach.

A search of the package Defendant accepted yielded approximately 10 pounds of suspected methamphetamine. Additionally, officers discovered numerous firearms in the master bedroom where Defendant was found, including an assault rifle and a tactical shotgun.

Law enforcement records suggest Defendant has previously been arrested for the following offenses:

a. First degree domestic assault and unlawful use of a weapon on or about July 19, 2014, in Jasper County, Missouri;

b. Third degree domestic assault on or about July 12, 2012, in Jasper County, Missouri;

c. Possession of marijuana on or about November 4, 2009, in Jasper County, Missouri;

d. Third degree assault on or about September 16, 2002, in Jasper County, Missouri;

e. Obstruction of judicial process, stealing, and driving while impaired by alcohol on or about March 18, 2002, in Jasper County, Missouri; and

f. Driving while impaired by alcohol on or about December 14, 1996, in Jasper County, Missouri.

Reports associated with Defendant’s arrest on July 19, 2014, reveal the following:

a. Law enforcement responded to Defendant’s resident after a report of Defendant “shooting at a female subject.”

b. Sheriff’s deputies made contact with the female, who reported that Defendant became violent with her that evening so she retrieved a knife to protect herself. The female stated that she then pointed the knife at Defendant and told him to get out. This prompted Defendant to retrieve a .45-caliber firearm and shoot it one time at the female’s foot.

c. When interviewed, Defendant admitted shooting the firearm at the female’s foot, but stated it was in self-defense. Deputies did observe wounds on Defendant’s person.

d. Deputies noted that the female appeared intoxicated and a sample of Defendant’s breath taken at the Carthage, Missouri, Jail showed an alcohol content of 0.057.

Bolivar teacher facing felony charges tells Highway Patrol she had "intense sexual attraction" to 16-year-old student

When Tania Dickey-Driskill released the first in a series of webinar videos for teachers in July, the Bolivar High School science and engineering teacher said the purpose was to enable teachers to "motivate (students) to do the deep learning we know they need to be doing."

Polk County officials allege Driskill had a different kind of "deep learning" in mind than what she was promoting on her video.

Seven months after the video was posted on YouTube, Driskill, 44, a veteran educator with more than two decades in the classroom has been placed on leave and is under house arrest charged with attempted statutory rape, attempted endangering the welfare of a child and stalking, all felonies, in connection with what she told Missouri Highway Patrol investigators was a very intense sexual attraction to a 16-year-old student.

Driskill posted a $15,000 bond with the stipulations that she does not go on Bolivar School District property or be with any child under the age of 18 unless there is supervision, with the exception of her own child. She is required to wear an electronic monitoring device and to stay at her residence, except for medical treatment, court appearances, attorney conferences or employment that has been verified with the Polk County Prosecuting Attorney's office.

Her next court appearance is scheduled for 10 a.m. Wednesday, March 11.

The charges against Driskill are detailed in the probable cause statement:

On February 26, 2020, I was contacted by the mother of a minor child who told me she had seen some disturbing sexually suggestive messages on her son's iPhone in a social media application called Tik Tok.

Myself, (Trooper E. Tyrell) Sergeant Michael Bracker and Master Sergeant Scott Rawson contacted the minor child and his parents at their residence in Polk County, Missouri.

The child told us about how Dickey-Driskill had been messaging him on the social media application TikTok. The child told us Dickey-Driskill had started sending him sexually suggestive text messages through the Tik-Tok application messaging feature for about two days and the messages had started the day before.

The child said he did not solicit these messages from Dickey-Driskill, he did not want to receive them, he was very upset about receiving them, and they were affecting his mental health and anxiety.

I reviewed all of the messages that were on the child's phone in the TikTok application that were from the user name "Tania Driskill." This "Tania Driskill" account also had a profile picture of Tania Dickey-Driskill that I recognized as being Tania Dickey-Driskill from her driver license photograph and from Google Image searching her name associated to the Bolivar School District.

The messages are very sexually suggestive towards the child. The messages from Dickey-Driskill explain how she is extremely sexually excited by the thought of the child and how she is very "turned on" by him.

She says things like, "So what you're saying, to be clear, is that you definitely don't want to f--- my brains out?"

Dickey-Driskill also sent several sexually suggestive poems to the child. One of these poems was titled "#29 Still Burning." The poem contained the following:

"I'm getting better. Day by day. I'll be okay. But I still get hot, when you get near me. And I want to taste your breath. Feel flesh on flesh. Makes me wet. Just thinking about. And I wish I could use you. Just one time. But I can't use, someone so beautiful, because then I'd lose. You. And me. So it's best that I leave you be. A teenage boy. Chasing dreams."

After obtaining consent fro the child and the child's parents, I took over the child's TikTok account and started messaging Dickey-Driskill myself as if I was the child. I attempted to steer the conversation to a meeting for sex with Dickey-Driskill, however the conversation never went that way and no meeting was discussed.

The child had also previously stated there was never a meeting discussed for sex. The texting conversation ended between Dickey-Driskill and I that night with "Good night."

The next day, February 27, 2020, the child's iPhone had 10 messages from Dickey-Driskill in the TikTok application.

One of these messages was another poem entitled "#32 I'm a Selfish Bitch." The poem stated the following:

"Opened my eyes and remembered you. And I got a rush. Like a lush. I drink up those thoughts of you. And I never wanna top. Started to touch myself. But then I felt, The pain, The truth, Of never having, All of you, I don't want to hurt you. Or me. Or anyone in between. And I probably, Should have, Kept this secret to myself. Inside my head. On a dusty shelf, Instead, I fed. You. My dirty mind. And you wanted seconds. Walked right in. To the fantasy. And if I was your mother, I would tell you to run, now. And don't look back."

On February 27, 2020, at approximately 0730 hours, Sergeant Michael Bracker and I waited in the high school parking lot for Dickey-Driskill to arrive at work. When Dickey-Driskill arrived at work, we approached her and asked if we could speak with her, which she agreed.

After Dickey-Driskill was advised of her Miranda rights and agreed to speak with us, she admitted to messaging with the child on TikTok. She said the messages were mostly fantasy, but the sexual attraction was real and very intense.

She denied ever trying to meet with the child for sex and said he would have to be at least 17 years old before she would even start to think about actually having sex with him.

Dickey-Driskill said she knew what she was doing was wrong, but tried to blame the child for instigating it. When I told her, "But he's 16," she said that was a problem.

Dickey-Driskill also told the child several times to delete he messages and not to tell anybody about them because of the possible repercussions. In one message, Dickey-Driskill said, "So I literally used a bag of tricks to pull you in. That is manipulation and using my power to control you. I'm sorry about that. 

I did it on purpose.

Friday, February 28, 2020

Bill White offers update on punitive damages, military affairs bills

(From Sen. Bill White, R-Joplin)

Senate Bill 591 – Punitive Damages

We had a very busy week in the Missouri Senate that included a 20 hour, all-night filibuster on Tuesday and Wednesday on a bill dealing with mesothelioma litigation.

As my punitive damages bill, Senate Bill 591, was next on the calendar we took advantage of the time being spent on the filibuster to negotiate with the trial attorneys and other interested parties on my bill. After about eight hours of discussions, we reached an agreement and drafted a new senate substitute reflecting the compromise.

Under the current system, some attorneys, in addition to filing a claim for compensatory damages (damages to recover the cost of the damage to a plaintiff), are filing a meritless claim for punitive damages (damages designed to punish the defendant for intentional or outrageous behavior). 

 As an attorney, it is my legal opinion that this tactic is used to scare businesses into making larger settlements since punitive damages are not covered by insurance and therefore place the person’s wealth or business at risk. This is also a common practice in medical malpractice cases. 

Senate Bill 591 prohibits this practice by only allowing the initial case filing to be for compensatory damages and requires that the plaintiff’s attorney have a hearing to amend the petition to include punitive damages which will be approved only when enough clear and convincing evidence is presented to the court that a jury could reasonably find that the defendant intentionally or with flagrant disregard for the safety of others did the egregious act.

The bill also returns to the original intent that to receive punitive damages the defendant’s action has to be one in which they intentionally harmed another or that the act perpetrated was outrageous and evil in its disregard for the safety of others. However, nothing in this bill inhibits a valid case for punitive damages from proceeding.

My bill was perfected on Wednesday and was sent to fiscal review on Thursday. It should be 3rd read and passed next Monday and on its way to the House of Representatives for their review, action and passage.

Senate Bill 718 – Military Affairs UpdateMy military affairs bill, Senate Bill 718, has been placed on the formal calendar for perfection and will hopefully be debated on the senate floor soon. I am confident that my colleagues and I can agree on this important legislation and send it to the Missouri House of Representatives for consideration as soon as possible.

Green Party presidential candidate to visit Joplin

(From the Green Alliance)

Green Party Presidential candidate Dario Hunter 2020 visits Joplin, MO for a Meet and Greet and Q&A on March 4th at 6pm at Joplin Avenue Coffee Company!

Dario is a former member of the Youngstown, Ohio Board of Education, a former environmental lawyer, former teacher, and an anti-fracking activist. Black, openly gay, the son of an Iranian immigrant and Jewish, The New Republic has called Hunter “as diverse as candidates come.”

As an ordained rabbi, Hunter has attracted national and international attention for his support of Palestinian rights. His campaign advocates for an eco-socialist Green New Deal that will transition the country to 100% renewable energy, and his Green Path Forward aims to bridge international divides to save our planet.

Hunter’s platform covers everything from single-payer universal healthcare to ending privatization in our school districts and includes a ‘People of Color Bill of Rights’ to tackle the many ways People of Color continue to experience unequal treatment.

Dario will be stopping in Joplin as he travels the state talking to Green-minded voters as he makes his final push in his bid for the Green Party of the United States nomination. Dario is 1 of 3 officially recognized Green Party candidates that will appear on the Missouri Presidential Preference Primary ballot.

This event is open to the public!

Lane Roberts to serve on special committee to address coronavirus response

(From Speaker of the House Elijah Haahr, R-Springfield)

Missouri House Speaker Elijah Haahr announced the creation of the Special Committee on Disease Control and Prevention.

 The committee will host a public forum for the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) to share their response to the coronavirus with Dr. Williams, director of DHSS, on Monday, March 2 at 1:30 p.m. in House Hearing Room 5 in the Missouri State Capitol building.

“Dr. Randall Williams has briefed my office on the state’s preventive measures and response plan to protect Missourians’ health,” Haahr said. “I believe Missourians deserve to know the steps that have been taken and the proactive approach Dr. Williams and DHSS are utilizing to combat the coronavirus in our state.”

Recently, a top federal official at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned that the spread of the coronavirus in the U.S. appears to be inevitable. The official’s comment comes as the pandemic continues to spread to more countries.

Members of the committee include Rep. Jon Patterson, R-Lee's Summit (chairman); Rep. Steve Helms, R-Springfield (vice chairman); Rep. Jim Neely, R-Cameron; Rep. Tom Hannegan, R-St. Charles; Rep. Kathy Swan, R-Cape Girardeau; Rep. Holly Rehder, R-Sikeston, Rep. Lane Roberts, R-Joplin; Rep. Ashley Bland Manlove, D-Kansas City; Rep. Yolanda Young, D-Kansas City; Rep. Rasheen Aldridge, D-St. Louis; and Rep. Kip Kendrick, D-Columbia.

Neosho real estate agent, former Leggett & Platt manager among those challenging Billy Long in 7th District

Four people have filed for the Republican nomination for the Seventh District Congressional seat held by Billy Long.

In addition to Long, those filing are Neosho realtor Kevin VanStory (left), Steve Chentnik, former operations manager at Leggett & Platt, (below) who lived in the Carthage/Webb City area until moving to Branson, and Eric Harleman, Sparta.

The only Democrat to file thus far is Teresa Montseny, Springfield.

House passes bill exempting private, religious schools from minimum wage increases

The Missouri House has voted to exempt private and religious schools from the state’s minimum wage law approved by voters in 2018. The bill would extend the exemption that already applies to public institutions, including public schools.

The bill passed on a 94-53 vote with five of the six Joplin area legislators voting in favor of it- Ben Baker, R-Neosho, Bob Bromley, R-Carl Junction, Dirk Deaton, R-Noel, Ann Kelley, R-Lamar, and Cody Smith, R-Carthage.

Lane Roberts, R-Joplin voted against it.

Voters passed a plan that will increase the minimum wage for hourly workers by 85-cents an hour each year until 2023, when it would reach $12 an hour. It is currently set at $9.45 an hour.

“Already private schools and religious schools have received price increases from vendors because of the new law and many could be threatened to even stay in existence. They have put building processes and plans on hold because of the minimum wage,” said bill sponsor Tim Remole (R-Excello, pictured at microphone)

“I have private schools in my district that have a lot of increases in some of their tuitions. They just received letters, many of the parents, that they will receive a 10-percent increase over the next five years because of the minimum wage law."

Whitewater Republican Barry Hovis said he remembers voting on the minimum wage proposal in 2018 and he thought that it exempted all schools, not just public institutions.“From my perspective that was an oversight. I probably would’ve voted no if I’d have known it was going to take and penalize the private schools and the other schools that are affected by this and all this bill’s doing is making it a level playing field … for all our schools,” said Hovis.

Republicans say the workers the bill would affect, including teachers’ aides, janitors, cafeteria workers, and bus drivers, are often individuals who choose to work in those private schools to support them, and are often retired.

“They love these kids. They could, quite frankly, take their skills and go somewhere else and make a tremendous amount of money beyond what they’re making in the context of the private school. They know that,” said Representative Doug Richey (R-Excelsior Springs).

Democrats said the legislation goes against the wishes of voters and attacks some of the state’s lowest-paid workers.

“Prop B passed in 145 of the 163 House seats, so it passed in many majority party House seats. It outperformed the Republican candidate in 19 House seats. It passed in 78 of the 114 counties, and it passed in the sponsor’s district by 51.5-percent,” said Representative Judy Morgan (D-Kansas City).

St. Louis representative LaDonna Applebaum (D) said she thinks voters understood that Prop B exempted public schools and not private.

“I just don’t understand how legislators in this room can say that their constituents aren’t smart enough to understand what they voted for, and yet they voted for us, they voted for you,” said Applebaum.

The House voted 94-53 to send House Bill 1559 to the Senate.

Billy Long: I will continue to support the National Institutes of Health

(From Seventh District Congressman Billy Long)

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) is the largest public funder of biomedical research in the world and has invested more than $30 billion this past year to enhance our quality of life, lengthen life, and reduce illness and disability.

This vital agency improves national health by conducting and supporting research and drives economic growth by funding cutting-edge research in the biomedical field, creating thousands of jobs across the country. 

Thanks to this agency, our nation is at the helm of medical innovation, and thousands of Americans are living longer and healthier lives.

Last year, the NIH awarded Missouri $655 million in grants and contracts that generated over $1.5 billion in new economic activity and supported over 9,000 jobs statewide.

NIH’s research concluded that cancer, heart disease, and chronic lower respiratory disease were the top three causes of disease-related deaths in Missouri, claiming 12,696, 14,579, and 3,961 lives, respectively.

All fifty states, including the District of Columbia, have received these critical investments and we are optimistic that they will help decrease the number of disease-related deaths across the nation. Overall, this investment has generated $81 billion in economic activity and has created 475,000 new jobs.

As a member of the House Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee, I have had worked closely with the Director of NIH Francis Collins and others at NIH and have seen first hand their dedication to eliminating threats to our overall health and wellbeing.

Doctor Collins is an American physician-geneticist who discovered the genes associated with a number of diseases and led the Human Genome Project. I am a member of the Black Maternal Health Caucus and recently along with folks from NIH we have held meetings to discuss the growing maternal mortality epidemic in the U.S.

The NIH recognizes this crisis and is funding research addressing the leading causes of maternal morbidity and mortality, such as infections and pregnancy-related illnesses. The NIH is also at the forefront of advances in genetics research to find gene-based cures to cancers, sickle-cell disease, and HIV.

President Trump has advocated for a cure for HIV since he took office and recently pledged, in his State of the Union address, to end the HIV epidemic in the next ten years. Though there is still much work to be done to address this health crisis, tackling this epidemic would be far more difficult without research from the NIH.

The NIH has earned the reputation for being the world leader in health research, pioneering life-changing discovery and maintaining American output, employment, and a globally competitive life sciences industry.

Since 2016, Congress has provided strong increases to the NIH budget every year because we recognize its importance and global influence, creating a noticeable difference in grants, jobs, economic activity, and health outcomes. I am proud of the progress Congress and the NIH have made in finding cures, and I look forward to offering my continued support as the NIH continues its vital work.

Ed Emery discusses proposed constitutional amendment requiring children to play on sports teams matching birth gender

As Sen. Ed Emery, R-Lamar, notes in his latest podcast, it is hard to believe we have reached the point where the constitutional amendment requiring children to play on the sports team matching the gender with which they were born.

The resolution, Emery said, simply breaks down to "boys will play on boys' teams and girls will play on girls' teams.

"You would have thought that seems normal, but in this age of gender dysphoria that has invaded the country, many of the things we used to consider mental illness and tried to change a person's thinking, but today, we have kind of normalized it."

Emery said the resolution had a large amount of opponents during its hearing this week in the Senate's Education Committee, "mostly parents whose children are going through struggles."

Emery expressed sympathy for the parents and the children, noting that they were "hurting."

When he had spoken with those parents, Emery said, he wasn't sure what they were talking about, if it was "a young man who thought he was a girl, or a young girl who thought she was a man."

Emery said was concerned as he heard the stories of parents providing drugs to their children "trying to make them different than God has created them."

Thursday, February 27, 2020

Josh Hawley: Show the world you reject Bernie Sanders by sending me money

Josh Hawley is scared by the prospect of a socialist, Bernie Sanders, becoming a president.

Hawleys' solution to that problem- Send him money for his re-election campaign.

That will put the fear into Bernie.

Radical Democrats have tried to override the Constitution by removing our president, and now, they have a socialist ready to run against President Trump. The threat of socialism has never been closer to becoming a terrifying reality.

Fortunately, there’s still time to tell liberals that we will not surrender our liberties to their radical ideas. My team has set a goal of raising $10k by the end of the month in order to show that hardworking Americans reject the poisonous direction Bernie Sanders wants to take our country in.

Every donation is another voice saying NO to socialism.


If we continue working together, we can remove the stain liberals left on our Constitution and move our country toward the prosperous vision our forefathers intended.

Thank you for your continued support.

Branson Republican's bill would allow College of the Ozarks to establish a police department

(From Rep. Jeffery Justus, R-Branson)

Currently I am working on the bills I have filed.

On the House side, I am carrying HB 1282, pertaining to private colleges that the College of the Ozarks asked me to carry, HB 1283, on tourism funding, HCR 68, a resolution on the Gold Star Family Memorial at College of the Ozarks, HB 2504, about transient guest tax, for the City of Branson, and as Chair of the Special Committee on Tourism, I get to carry the Tourism Committee bill, HCB 12. 

Variations of HB 1282, Private College Protection Act, have been filed in the last three sessions. These bills would allow private colleges and universities in Missouri to establish a police department. 

Missouri public colleges and universities, by statute, have had this ability for several years. Some of the public Missouri colleges and universities have developed a police department, others have not. 

Current statute does not demand that the public collages have to have a police department, just gives them the authority to do so. The first two versions started out giving all private colleges and universities the authority to establish a police department. 

Last year’s version was amended to exclude Springfield colleges. All three versions mirror the wording of the statute that was used for public colleges. This year’s version, HB 1282, is tailored to apply only to College of the Ozarks. 

Although no private colleges had any push back, because it did not demand any college to form a police department, some police departments did have some concerns. 

As this bill was heard in committee, it was suggested that it have a five-year sunset. What that means is in five years the bill will be reevaluated, if it worked it could be extended, if not, then the college would not have the authority to keep their department. 

Twenty-four states now allow private colleges to have police departments. The only problem I have read about is that some private colleges did not think their police department had to comply with sunshine information requests. 

So two amendments were added, a five-year sunset with the ability to reauthorize and that the police department must comply with sunshine requests just as any Missouri police departments would have to comply. The bill was voted out of committee, 7 ayes, 1 no, 1 present. 

At this time it is in Rules committee. When out of Rules it will have to come to the House floor, Perfected, where it can be amended again. Third Read, then to the Senate. The legislation mirrors current Missouri public college statute, 24 other states allow private colleges, there is a sunset and must follow sunshine laws. 

Hopefully it gets through the House, Senate and signed by the Governor it will be law and then the College will have the authority to develop a police department. There will be no cost to the State and does not require any college to have a police department. 

The College has a great working relationship with the Taney County Sheriff Department and the surrounding police departments. The College understands that all these departments can be stretched very thin and that their community’s safety needs, need to be addressed. 

After much discussion, study and inquiries, this is the best approach for the College and its community. 

Agenda posted for Joplin City Council meeting

6:00 PM

Call To Order

Pledge of Allegiance of the United States of America

Roll Call




Finalization Of Consent Agenda


Reports And Communications


Citizen Requests And Petitions


LaVietta Prichard Would Like To Address Council Regarding Solace House Of The Ozarks Opening In A Single Family Dwelling Neighborhood.


Public Hearings


Public Hearing Procedures



AN ORDINANCE amending Ordinance No. 2004-256, passed by the Council of the City of
Joplin, Missouri, November 15, 2004, by removing from District R-1 and including in District C-3 property as described below and located 5703 & 5705 W. Wildwood Ranch Parkway of Joplin, Jasper County, Missouri.

Consent Agenda


Minutes Of The February 18, 2020 Joplin City Council Meeting


Minutes Of The February 24, 2020 Special City Council Meeting



AN ORDINANCE amending Ordinance No. 2004-256, passed by the Council of the City of Joplin, Missouri, November 15, 2004, by removing from District R-1 and including in District C-O property as described below and located 2307, 2311, 2315, 2319, 2321, & 2329 Connecticut, City of Joplin, Jasper County, Missouri.
  1. CB2020-252.PDF


AN ORDINANCE authorizing the City of Joplin to enter into an Agreement with Olsson Associates for Transportation Planning Services relating to the update of the Joplin Area Transportation Study Organization’s (JATSO) Metropolitan Transportation Plan; authorizing the City Manager to execute said Agreement for the City; and, amending the Annual Budget of the City of Joplin for the Fiscal Year 2019-2020 as adopted by Ordinance 2019-166 on October 21, 2019.
  1. CB2020-401.PDF



Ordinances - Emergency



AN ORDINANCE approving an amendment (Change Order No. 1) to the construction agreement with Emery Sapp & Sons, Inc. in the amount of Four Hundred Twenty-Eight Thousand Two Hundred Fifty-Five and 87/100 dollars ($428,255.87) for Surface Project 4011, and authorizing the City Manager or his designee to execute the same by and on behalf of the City of Joplin; and containing an emergency clause.


AN ORDINANCE authorizing the City of Joplin to enter into a work authorization with Olsson, for engineering consultation services not to exceed the amount of Seventy-Six Thousand Seventy Five and 00/100 Dollars ($76,075.00) to conduct survey and data collection necessary in order to prepare and submit a letter of map revision to FEMA on behalf of the City of Joplin and authorizing the City Manager or his designee to execute the same by and on behalf of the City of Joplin; and containing an emergency clause.


AN ORDINANCE approving a work authorization with Anderson Engineering, Inc. in the not to exceed amount of Twenty Thousand Nine Hundred and No/100 Dollars ($20,900.00) for the Fire Station 1 Concrete Apron Replacement Project; and authorizing the City Manager or his designee to execute the same by and on behalf of the City of Joplin; and containing an emergency clause.


Ordinances - First Reading


Ordinances - Second Reading And Third Reading


Unfinished Business


New Business


News From Public Information Officer, Lynn Onstot


Vote To Go Into Closed Session, Which Shall Pertain To Legal Action, Causes Of Action, Or Litigation Including A Public Governmental Body And Any Confidential Or Privileged Communications Between A Governmental Body Or Its Representatives And Its Attorneys; And The Hiring, Firing, Disciplining, Or Promotion Of An Employee Or Particular Employees Of A Governmental Body Involving Personal Information; As Set Forth In Section 610.021(1) (3) RSMo, As Amended, 2019. This Meeting, Record, And Vote To Be Closed To The Extent Provided By Law. The City Council Shall Adjourn At The End Of The Session.

Subcommittee Chairman: Secretary DeVos, we are not going to privatize public education

The Trump Administration has doubled down on its efforts to privatize the American education system, not only backing charter school expansion, but coming right out and supporting educational vouchers, an idea designed to cripple our public education system under the guise of providing "choice."

The administration's budget proposal reflects that and Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos appeared before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services to answer questions about the budget proposal, which also features steep cuts in public education funding.

I spotted this on the blog of former Bush Department of Education official Diane Ravitch, who is currently a leading supporter of public schools.

Following are the open remarks, the subcommittee's chairman, Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Connecticut, delivered at the hearing:

(As prepared for delivery)

Good morning, Secretary Devos. Welcome to the Subcommittee. It is our second budget hearing of the year. It is your fourth budget hearing with us. Today, we are examining the President’s Department of Education budget request for fiscal year 2021.

As I was reviewing the budget materials, Madame Secretary, this much was clear to me. You are seeking to privatize public education. But, I believe that is the wrong direction for our students and our country. Instead, we need to be moving towards expanding public policies like early childhood education that we know help students to succeed. We see this in other countries around the globe. They are not shrinking public support; they are expanding it.

I will get more into the consequences of the cuts that you are proposing. But, I want to start by examining your privatization philosophy, the false premise on which it is built, and the research it ignores.

Contrary to your claims, the nation’s public education system, which 90 percent of our children attend, has witnessed significant progress for all groups of students over the last 30 years. Average mathematics scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) have improved for 4th graders (by 13 percent) and 8th graders (by 7 percent). While overall reading improvements have been more modest, Black 4th graders’ scores improved by 6 percent and 8th graders’ by 3 percent. Hispanic 4th graders’ scores improved by 6 percent and 8th graders’ by 5 percent.

There is more to do to address the disparities in achievement. We know we face significant challenges in assisting the kids that come into our system in education districts where they experience poverty and exposure to violence, often resulting in trauma. But, the solution is not less resources, nor is it more privatization.

In fact, the administration’s own data has shown how privatization has let down students. The Trump administration evaluated the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program and found that vouchers had a statistically significant negative impact on the mathematics achievement of impacted students. In other words, more vouchers, lower math achievement. That is not a lone data point, either. Previous multi-sector studies using NAEP data have found that no student achievement scores for children in private schools were higher than those of children in public schools by any statistically significant degree.

So, your push to privatize public education is based on false premise that is not supported by data.

Its consequences would be to undermine the education of students in nearly every state, particularly for vulnerable students in high-need regions, including rural parts of our country.

• You would end career and college readiness for 560,000 low-income, middle school students across 45 states by eliminating the highly competitive grant program known as GEAR UP (-$365 million).

• You would endanger academic tutoring, personal counseling, and other programs for 800,000 students in sixth grade by slashing TRIO programs by $140 million. TRIO serves low-income, first-generation students and students with disabilities, helping them graduate from college.

• You would endanger education access for children experiencing homelessness by eliminating the Education for Homeless Children and Youth program (-$102 million). This funding is desperately needed. In the 2016-2017 school year, more than 1.3 million enrolled children had experienced homelessness at some point in the past 3 years, an increase of 7 percent from 2014-2015.

• You would endanger youth literacy as well as potentially increase class size and undermine efforts to support diverse teachers by eliminating the main program -- Supporting Effective Instruction State Grants which we increased for the first time in many years (-$2.1 billion).

• You would potentially put higher education out of the financial grasp of students by flat funding the Pell Grant ($6,345). 40 percent of undergraduate students or 7 million students rely on Pell Grants to afford higher education. But while Pell covered 79 percent of the average costs of tuition, fees, room, and board at a four-year public institution in 1975, it covers only 29 percent today. Our students cannot afford for us to stand pat like this.

• And, finally, your budget would risk exacerbating the financial challenges of under-resourced rural districts by converting rural formula grants into the block grant. These districts already struggle with lower student populations and higher transportation costs and your move to undermine their funding in this way is unacceptable.

With all of this, let me say, it is not going to happen.

I am supportive of the recognition of I-D-E-A State grants ($100 million proposed increase) and career and technical education, ($680 million proposed increase) for CTE State grants. Although I am disappointed that Adult Education State Grants are left with level funding. I plan to ask you that about later.

You have also once again requested an increase for student loan servicing. We included new reforms in the fiscal year 2020 bill to help us conduct more oversight and ensure borrowers are getting the help they need. Many of these ideas stemmed from an oversight hearing that this Subcommittee held last year. To be direct, I will need to see how the Department implements the new requirements as I review your request for next year.

And, with regard to Charter Schools, there is a place for them. They have a role in the education system. However, we have moved in the direction of creating a parallel education system. Concerns remain around issues of accountability and transparency, which to this point they have not been forthcoming. As I have said again and again, I believe Charter Schools ought to be held to the same rigor. And, where they fail, we need to know about it.

To close, Madame Secretary, you are clearly seeking to privatize public education. I hope that I have been clear that we are not going to do that. Because doing so ignores the research indicating the gains we have made, ignores the many areas private education shortchanges students, ignores the very reason the federal government has needed to be involved in education as so powerfully indicated with Brown vs. Board of Education, and ignores the spirit and values of this country. No, instead, we need to be expanding public policies that boost education attainment, not restricting or reducing them.

So, I look forward to our discussion today. Now, let me turn to my colleague, the Ranking Member from Oklahoma Tom Cole. Mr. Cole?

Missouri House passes bill designed to bring clarity to Voter ID bill that was declared unconstitutional

(Note: The following is a portion of the article many Missouri GOP representatives are sending to constituents as part of their weekly reports.)

Missouri House members took action this week to reinstitute a voter ID requirement that was approved by more than 60 percent of Missourians in 2016.

Lawmakers gave first-round approval to a bill that would bring clarity to the requirements that were gutted by a Missouri Supreme Court decision in January.

It was in 2016 that the legislature approved legislation to require voters to present a valid photo ID at the polling place or sign an affidavit and present some other form of identification. That same year voters also approved a constitutional amendment to authorize the voter ID law. A lower court ruling put the law on hold, and then in January 2020 the Supreme Court upheld the lower court ruling, which found the affidavit portion of the law unconstitutional.

The bill approved by lawmakers would remove the affidavit requirement and instead give voters without a valid photo ID the option to cast a provisional ballot. Individuals who cast a provisional ballot would need to sign a statement saying they will return to the polling place the same day with a valid ID in order to have their vote counted. They would also have their vote counted if their signature on the ballot matches the signature that is on file with election authorities.

Supporters say the bill is designed to protect the integrity of Missouri’s election system. They say the provisional ballot language will ensure no one is turned away at the ballot box for not having proper identification. Proponents also say the bill is crafted to be as simple and clear as possible so that everyone who is registered can vote and the elections are fair and trustworthy.

“When it comes to voter ID, we need certainty, security, protection, and finality. The people spoke on this single issue ballot in 2016, as did both chambers. The court weighed in on a technical language aspect of the statute, and that’s fine. They don’t have the final say in our republic,” said the sponsor of the bill. “The people ultimately have that final say through their elected representatives instead of unelected judges. It’s time to re-legislate and defend the views of voters and the vote of our citizens.”

The bill now awaits a final vote in the House.

Billy Long says Republicans will retake the House and that he's "joined at the hip" with President Trump

According to Seventh District Congressman Billy Long, not only will President Donald Trump be re-elected in November, but when Trump begins his second term, he will be greeted by Republican control of both houses.

In an interview with Missourinet, Long explained how his party would regain control of the House:

“We only need to pick up 20 seats, and there’s 34 seats that congressmen have right now, Democrat congressmen, that are in districts that Trump won back in 2016,” says Long.

 Long said he thoroughly expects to be re-elected in November.

“President Trump is going to do really well down there (southwest Missouri) and I’m kind of joined at the hip with the president,” Long says. “So we’ll kind of ride together, I think, to re-election.”

Hawley: Bernie Sanders would be a disaster for Democrats, he has a taste for authoritarian governments

Sen. Josh Hawley, R-MO, who may appear on Fox News more often than Sean Hannity, offered his thoughts about the leader in the Democratic presidential race, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont, during an interview with the network Wednesday:

Hawley accused Sanders of wanting to remake America into China or Cuba and would be a disaster for the Democrats should he receive his party's nomination:

I mean, if you praise Cuba and you praise China, I don’t know how there’s any other conclusion. I mean this is a guy who clearly has a taste for authoritarian governments, who thinks that the United States needs to look more like these authoritarian regimes. I mean, that just isn’t America.

I am guessing some of you are going to want add your thoughts on this. After all, it would be a scary thing if we ever had a present with an affection for authoritarian governments.

Battlefield Republican's legislation exempts disabled veterans from property tax

(From Sen. Eric Burlison, R-Battlefield)

State Sen. Eric Burlison, R-Battlefield, filed Senate Joint Resolution 56, concerning property tax exemptions for veterans.

Current law allows a property tax exemption for real property owned by a former prisoner of war with a total service-related disability rating of 100 percent. 

This resolution would provide a property tax exemption for real and personal property owned by a veteran with a combat-related disability and a total combined disability rating of 80 percent or higher.

“I filed this resolution because I wanted to allow more veterans to be exempt from paying property taxes,” Sen. Burlison said. 

“While this exemption does not even begin to scratch the surface of the sacrifices they made for our country, I believe this is a nice gesture of our appreciation to thank our veterans for serving our country honorably. Our veterans have already given us so much, and now, it is time to give back to them.”

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Nathan Stewart named principal at Royal Heights

(From Joplin Schools)

Joplin Schools is pleased to announce Nathan Stewart as the new Principal of Royal Heights Elementary. The last two years, Stewart has served as the assistant principal at Cecil Floyd Elementary.

Stewart grew up in Lamar, Missouri and has been an educator for the last eleven years. His career began in the North Kansas City School District, where he taught second and third grade before moving back to the Joplin area to continue teaching and be closer to family.

Dr. Moss, Superintendent of Schools stated, “Nathan has proven himself to be a strong instructional leader while serving as assistant principal at Cecil Floyd. Nathan’s focus on student safety and learner support will further advance the mission of Royal Heights.”

Throughout his career, Stewart has been able to quickly build and foster strong relationships with staff, students, and parents. He not only values the importance of relationships but also fosters the significance of meeting the needs of diverse learners. Stewart stated, “Royal Heights has some amazing things going on. I look forward to adding to the rich culture based around continuous improvement and am extremely grateful for this wonderful opportunity.”

Stewart and his family are proud to be part of the Joplin community and look forward to continuing the great work at Royal Heights.

Stewart earned his bachelor’s degree in elementary education from Rockhurst University in Kansas City, Missouri. In 2014, he completed his master’s degree in administration at the University of Central Missouri.

Carthage bank manager who embezzled to feed her drug addiction sentenced to six months

A former manager of the U. S. Bank branch in Carthage will report to federal prison April 22 to begin a six-month sentence for embezzlement.

The sentence, which was handed town today in U. S. District Court in Springfield, was slightly less than the eight months the government recommended for Elisha Stukesbary, 38, in a sentencing memorandum filed earlier this month.

After Stukesbary completes her sentence, she will be placed on supervised probation for five years. She will also be required to repay the $35,000 she stole.

Stukesbary told investigators she stole the money to feed an illegal drug habit.

The thefts took place between December 3 and December 15, 2018, according to the grand jury indictment.

Stukesbary's crime was detailed in the plea agreement.

U.S. Bank officials advised that after an internal audit was conducted, Stukesbary's irregular cash transactions were detected by bank examiners.

According to the internal audit, bank officials observed that Stukesbary made several miscellaneous debits for varying amounts of cash from her teller drawer.

Bank officials then observed that Stukesbary would then reverse the debit transactions a few seconds after the original transaction was performed.

Upon scrutinizing Stukesbary’s transactions more closely, bank officials observed that between December 3, 2018, and December 15, 2018, Stukesbary performed numerous debit transactions and reversals that totaled $35,000 in monies that were determined to be missing from Stukesbary’s work station.

On January 4, 2019, officials with U.S. Bank met with Stukesbary at her office, located at U.S. Bank, 2208 South Grand, Carthage, Missouri.

During the meeting, officials asked Stukesbary about the $35,000 in cash discrepancies and the “forced balancing” of the ledger associated with her work station. When asked if there was anything that Stukesbary wanted to tell bank officials, (she) stated, “I did this. I stole the money.”

Stukesbary advised that she had an addiction to illegal drugs and apologized for stealing from the bank.

As Stukesbary was removing her personal belongings from her office, she removed an envelope from her desk drawer and handed it to Jeremy Goebel, the District Manager for U.S. Bank.

Stukesbary told Goebel, “You’re going to want this.” Goebel looked in the envelope and observed that it contained cash transaction tickets for each of (her) prior fraudulent “cash out” transactions.

Goebel stated that Stukesbary admitted that although she did not submit the cash transaction tickets, but she always kept each cash transaction ticket completed and hidden in case she was subject to a surprise audit.

Stukesbary admitted that she did this so that she could produce the belated documents to the give the appearance the cash transaction was complete and legitimate.

Joplin native Nick Edwards named city manager, begins work March 16

(From the City of Joplin)

On behalf of the Joplin City Council, Mayor Gary Shaw is pleased to announce Joplin native Nick Edwards has been named as Joplin’s City Manager.

Edwards comes from Lee’s Summit, Mo., where he served in administrative positions for the past nine years. Most recently he served as the Assistant City Manager from 2017 to 2019. Lee’s Summit is a southeast suburb of Kansas City, Mo, with a population of nearly 100,000.

“Nick has many strengths,” said Shaw. “Having worked in the Kansas City metro area, he has experience with commercial development as well as working with citizens in strategic planning to assist in the growth and quality of life of a vibrant and progressive community.”

Edwards holds a Master of Public Administration from Missouri State University and received his bachelor’s degree in political science from Missouri Southern State University. He is a member of the International City Manager Association (ICMA) and served in the United States Marine Corps from 1999 to 2003. He is a native of Joplin and is pleased to be moving back to this city.

“During my visit to Joplin I was reminded of the friendliness of the people and their strong work ethic,” said Edwards. “During my tour I saw many examples of how the community came together following the 2011 disaster to make Joplin stronger. It’s a wonderful community and I look forward to joining the City Council and city staff and offer my leadership to move the city forward to its next phase.”

City Council members held interviews with Edwards and three other candidates earlier this week. City management staff and Joplin Area Chamber of Commerce representatives had time with the candidates, and the Council hosted a community “meet and greet” for citizens to come and interact with the candidates. Some 80 people participated in the community gathering.

“The City Council wants to thank our city staff and community members who participated in our activities Monday as we met and got to know those who have applied to be considered to be our next City Manager,” said Shaw. “We appreciate everyone’s participation in this process.

The search for a new City Manager began in March 2019, when the need to fill that position became apparent. At the City Council’s request, the City’s Health Director Dan Pekarek was asked to fill the manager’s position until a new manager was selected. Over the past year Mr. Pekarek, with the help of our dedicated city staff, has done an outstanding job of leading Joplin through some needed changes and challenging times, bringing us to today’s announcement.”

Edwards’ first day as Joplin City Manager will be March 16, 2020. He and his wife Joleen will be moving to Joplin in upcoming weeks.