JEFFERSON CITY • Rep. Kurt Bahr doesn't want educators, teachers and business leaders paying out-of-pocket to help develop Common Core replacement standards -- but to fix that, the state will have to shell out nearly $89,000 later this year.
This clarification is one of several outlined by Bahr, R-O'Fallon, to cleanup legislation he sponsored last session -- signed by Gov. Jay Nixon in July -- that tasked work groups with meeting to recommend new educational standards to take the place of Common Core. By law, the groups must make recommendations by Oct. 1., and the state Board of Education must adopt and implement new standards for the 2016-17 school year. The board does not have to adopt standards recommended by the groups.
The Common Core standards — which have been adopted by at least 45 states, including Missouri — are meant to ensure students across the United States learn the same skills. Critics, especially some conservatives, have attacked the standards as an intrusion on local control of schools. The state board adopted the standards in 2010. Now, Missouri joins several states in starting to rewrite them.
Missouri's eight groups — a K-5 group and a 6-12 group each for math, science, social studies and English — first met in September. The meetings were fraught with arguments and confusion, exacerbated by vacancies in each group. Additionally, group members from across the state have to pay their own lodging and mileage to attend the meetings.
Bahr's cleanup measure would require the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education to reimburse work group members for travel expenses, including hotels, meals and mileage, at the state per-diem rate. Additionally, the department would have to reimburse school districts for the cost of a substitute teacher and the teacher's daily pay if meetings were held on a school day.
If passed and signed by Nixon, the measure would not go into effect until Aug. 28, leaving only one month of meetings before the recommendations must be submitted. Based on the department's per meeting estimate of $150 for a substitute teacher, $100 for a hotel room, $30 for meals and $.37 per mile, it would incur a cost of $88,740 in the 2016 fiscal year that begins July 1.
The work groups have incurred costs reaching nearly $750,000 to date.
Otto Fajen, Missouri National Educators Association legislative director, said reimbursing members for their time shows the state supports "this important educational work."
Bahr's original bill did not require group members be paid for their time, but he grew outraged when the Post-Dispatch discovered department-appointed facilitators and note takers were being paid $500 per meeting plus necessary expenses. Facilitators no longer participate in group meetings, but the department spent tens of thousands of dollars paying the facilitators and note takers.
The cleanup measure also outlines what will happen when a group member's qualifications are called into question. By law, group members are required to have at least 10 years of experience but problems flared up last year when former House Speaker Tim Jones, R-Eureka, ousted one of his appointees to the 6-12 English Language Arts work group, Nick Kremer.
Despite serious push back from the group, Jones replaced Kremer with Lou Ann Saighman, a special education teacher at Blue Springs School District, saying he lacked the necessary experience.
Bahr's bill would require a panel consisting of a department representative, lieutenant governor and House speaker to review member qualifications should they come into question. If a member's qualifications are deemed insufficient, the member is immediately removed and another person would be appointed in his or her place.
The House Elementary and Secondary Education did not vote on the bill Thursday.
The bill is HB 742.