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By State Senator Joe Don McGaugh
I hope everyone enjoyed the holiday weekend. Most of us don’t stop to really think about what this holiday is all about other than it signifies the end of summer. Labor Day is a creation of the labor movement and is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers. It constitutes a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country.
Members of the Joint Committee on Education will meet in the State Capitol in October to discuss what has been the most talked-about issue in education this year – the student transfer policy. This statute, which has been law for 20 years, allows students to transfer out of unaccredited school districts and into better-performing schools. It became an urgent issue in June of this year when the Missouri Supreme Court upheld the transfer law in a St. Louis-based case. That decision opened the floodgates for more than 2,500 students to leave the unaccredited Normandy and Riverview Gardens School districts.
This is an extremely complex issue that on one hand involves giving young people an opportunity for a better education, which is something we all want, but on the other hand creates numerous hardships for both the unaccredited and receiving school districts. Consider that the Normandy and Riverview Gardens districts will lose some $35 million in funding this year because of the loss of students leaving for other districts. Also keep in mind that the receiving districts are placed in the position of trying to find classroom space and teachers to accommodate the influx of new students. The situation is one that is not ideal and now has legislators discussing what we can do to help.
The Joint Committee on Education’s hearing will be an important step toward taking effective legislative action in 2014. The committee wants to hear recommendations for the upcoming session with the goal of addressing both the immediate needs of students and families in the sending and receiving school districts, as well as long-term solutions to the overarching problem of failing schools. While this situation is a major issue right now in St. Louis, it also has the potential to impact Kansas City depending on a court ruling that is still pending in a separate but similar case to the one ruled on earlier this year in St. Louis. This is undoubtedly a statewide issue and one we will seek to address when we return in January to being the legislative session.
This past week all the bills approved by the General Assembly and signed by the governor officially became law. Those that the governor did not sign have been sent back to the General Assembly to reconsider. We will be reviewing these bills next week during the Veto Session. At this time, I do not know which bills will be brought to a vote before the General Assembly. I have heard from many of you regarding different bills that you think the General Assembly should vote to override the governor’s veto on. I appreciate the time everyone took to write or call my office and I want to you to know that you voice did not go unheard. I am taking careful consideration concerning all the issues raised regarding each bill.
An event coming to our area this week is the Vietnam Traveling Memorial Wall. The Traveling Memorial Wall will be at the Concordia Fall Festival, September 4-8 at the Concordia Ballpark Complex. The Wall is a 3/5 scale of the Vietnam Memorial in Washington DC, it stands six feet tall at the center and covers almost 300 feet from end to end.
This Traveling Memorial stands as a reminder of the great sacrifices made during the Vietnam War. It was made for the purpose of helping heal and rekindle friendships and to allow people the opportunity to visit loved ones in their home town who otherwise may not be able to make the trip to Washington.