I am always a little in awe when I go to Jefferson City.
Of course, that majesty lasts only about as long as it takes to walk inside the Capitol building, hear about how long it takes bills to weave in and out of committee, all the while side deals and negotiations taking place, and state representatives getting gaveled out of the chambers.
Then, you realize you’re watching a comedy. Or a tragedy. Sometimes both.
In all seriousness, what goes on in Jefferson City is important. Our senators and reps do vital work for our respective districts and, we hope, have their constituents’ best interests in mind while functioning for us.
During our annual Lee’s Summit Chamber of Commerce train trip to Jefferson City this week, we had a chance to see our officials in action, ask them questions and learn a little bit more about the process of governance.
Some equate it to making sausage. Others say we want to eat that steak without knowing how it was killed. Personally, I like both. With some bacon on the side.
One bill working its way through our government is HB 470, a bill that would allow any student in any district in Missouri to attend a “virtual” charter school and bypass attending the public school within the district they reside. There would be reportedly a 3 percent cap on students that take advantage of this.
This is essentially an open enrollment bill, and it is bad for public schools because it could hit the critical Foundation Formula, which is already under funded and continues to be chipped away.
It seems public schools are continuing to take shots to the gut right now with this bill and Gov. Jay Nixon’s ill-fated call to add six days to the school year – which, by the way, would also not be funded. Fortunately, we heard from our area reps this week that the six-day idea may be dying or dead.
But HB 470 is not.
Two local representatives that have a lot of Lee’s Summit real estate in their area, Jeff Grisamore and Mike Cierpiot, said they might support this bill (which has already passed the House on a voice vote and will be going to full vote soon). Two other representatives, Sheila Solon and Joe Runions, (who cover far less of Lee’s Summit) said they have issues with the bill and may not support it.
Lee’s Summit R-7 Superintendent David McGehee and the district, obviously and rightfully, object to this bill.
McGehee says the state should put financial support toward its own virtual program and not burden local districts and, ultimately, the formula.
He’s right and I hope our local representatives are listening.
John Beaudoin is the publisher of the Lee’s Summit Journal. To comment, call 816-282-7001 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.