Our state reps need to be heard

Lee's Summit JournalJanuary 10, 2014 

There’s a lot of talk around Lee’s Summit about where our representatives from Jefferson City stand on certain issues.

Tax credits, MoDOT, economic development – all are topics that seem to generate some interest from our contingent that speaks on our behalf, including State Sen. Will Kraus and State Representatives Gary Cross, Jeff Grisamore and Mike Cierpiot.

Where these four have been fairly quiet, though, is on a topic we need them to get loud about – the transfer debacle involving the Kansas City School District.

Lee’s Summit Superintendent David McGehee didn’t mince words, though, at the Jan. 8 Lee’s Summit Economic Development Council, calling out Missouri House Speaker Tim Jones as “bought and paid for” by retired businessman/billionaire Rex Sinquefield.

Of course, many Republicans down in Jefferson City have taken a few bucks here and there from Sinquefield, including those in our Lee’s Summit backyard.

Speaker Jones, as McGehee noted, wants to put “lint” all over a bill that would address the disaster that is brewing here (and overflowed in St. Louis) regarding the state transfer law – a law that says students can transfer to any school district in the county or adjoining county of a district that has been unaccredited.

In the case of KCPS, that would include 45 school districts. And while it is unlikely that a student would transfer as far away as Warrensburg, anything can happen. More likely is that students from the KCPS would go to Lee’s Summit, Blue Springs, Independence, Raytown or North Kansas City – and the KCPS would have to pick up those tuition and travel expenses.

Failure to act by Jefferson City leaders – and our local Lee’s Summit leaders – puts them in company with what we have come to expect out of Washington, D.C., which is a do-nothing, political-back scratching way of legislating.

A snapshot of what is happening in St. Louis should tell Kraus, Grisamore, Cross and Cierpiot all they need to know. The Normandy and Riverview Garden school districts were deemed unacceptable. Kids fled in droves to neighboring districts. Some of those districts began to feel the academic burden. And now, Normandy is short about $7 million it wants the state to kick in just to stay in business.

Imagine the impact any school district – and most are at capacity now, including Lee’s Summit, which has cost-contained to slim down – will have with hundreds or thousands of new students entering the classroom unfettered.

McGehee and other superintendents have proposed a “new path to excellence” that allows students in “unaccredited” school districts (and many would argue KCPS shouldn’t even be in that category given new numbers) to transfer to above-average performing schools within their own districts, thus eliminating the onslaught of students that is sure to overwhelm neighboring districts that are bound by current laws.

It’s time for our local representation to speak out and speak loudly in favor of legislation that stops the current transfer orders and supports the new plan.

Not only that, Kraus and Cierpiot, Cross and Grisamore need to guard against bills that attach agenda-driven issues to the transfer law, such as open enrollment and vouchers.

Such actions are pure politics. And given the standard that we all expect our Lee’s Summit R-7 School District to live up to, it’s time we hold our representatives in Jefferson City to those same expectations.

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John Beaudoin is the publisher of the Lee’s Summit Journal. To comment, call 816-282-7001 or e-mail jbeaudoin@lsjournal.com.

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