As some of you may or may not know I am in education (this is also why updates to the blog have slowed down lately, schools back in session). This is an issue that I am incredibly passionate about and one that BOTH POLITICAL PARTIES GET WRONG OFTEN! Many liberals want to shove every penny they can find into education and conservatives are convinced that all we have to do is encourage more competition and the problem is solved. If only the issues in education were so simple, they’re not, politicians and average citizens who don’t have degrees in education think they have all the solutions.

More teachers should be politically engaged, and that doesn’t mean giving part of your paycheck to some union so they can go run their mouth for you. Did you know that 79% of MNEA representatives voted for the MNEA to endorse King Obama in the last Presidential election? This is the same President mind you that selected Arne the Duncan to be our Secretary of Education. If you don’t know about Arne the Duncan I suggest you learn. No degree in education, took the worst performing school district in America (Chicago Public Schools) and pretty much kept it the worst performing school district in America. His solution to America’s educational woes, turn the entire school system in America into test taking factories. Sorry, this isn’t the solution to our troubles.

I digress, back to the topic at hand. Currently there is something going on at the state level that all Missouri citizens should know about. There is a very popular program that teachers participate in called Career Ladder. The basic point of this program is that a teacher puts in extra hours in the district and they get paid for the work that they put it. I guess you could say it’s like a performance bonus. The work they put in is off contract time and can be done in several different areas; examples include student contact like tutoring or enrichment activities to make the teacher a better educator. Rep. Allen Icet and Sen. Gary Nodler sent out press releases in early August announcing that the career ladder program “may” be cut.

I am severely disappointed in these two legislators because “may” is an irresponsible word to use. First, one must understand how career ladder works. This is an ongoing process that starts when school begins and doesn’t end until the end of the year. They begin to accumulate hours and continue throughout the school year. So, if a teacher puts all of their hours in and contributes to the educational environment they “may” get paid for their time? This proves that either Mr. Nodler and Mr. Icet are clueless about the program or they really don’t care and are seeing places to cut in the budget. By using the word “may” it makes me wonder if they don’t want to own up to the fact that they are on the side of cutting this program.

Look I get it, we are in a budget crunch and know that tough decisions are going to be made about the budget. The Missouri state constitution requires in Article IX that we fund education. I am not saying that there is an easy solution but hacking to bits educational initiatives that have positive educational outcomes is not a good idea. The last place we ought to be cutting is education. 

Senator Bill Stouffer has been talking about this issue for a little bit of time now and his most recent Stouffer Report has him on record as supporting Career Ladder. I have asked Rep. Silvey his position and he has told me that he needs to research the issue more before he can state his position. As for the other Clay County Representatives and Senators, I have not contacted them. It is my hope that all Clay County state level officials see the value in career ladder and retain the funding for the budget in 2010. The Stouffer Report from 8/21/09 is below.

The Stouffer Report:

Popular Teacher Program Threatened

A program popular among Missouri’s teachers has been the topic of interest among Missouri’s budget hawks lately.

Early this summer, officials with the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) were told the Career Ladder Program may not get its usual funding for the 2009-2010 school year. The short story is simple: folks claim the money is not there. The longer reason is: more school districts take advantage of the Career Ladder Program every year, which makes it more expensive for the state to fund, which becomes all the more difficult in times of declining revenues.

You may not have heard of the Career Ladder Program. According to DESE’s website, the Career Ladder Program is a variable match program established in 1985 by the Missouri Legislature. The purpose of the program is to reward excellent educators for the work they do over and above what is required.

An educator who chooses to participate in the program must meet certain criteria prior to participation and also must agree to complete a career development plan. That plan designates the academic activities that the educator will perform outside contracted time. An educator may progress through the three stages of the Career Ladder as long as he/she meets the criteria for each stage.

One estimate shows at least 100 teachers could be affected by a funding loss just in my district alone. Needless to say, teachers and parents throughout Missouri are hopeful the program will continue to be funded.

The state pays roughly 45 percent of Career Ladder funding, with individual school districts paying the remaining 55 percent. The funding for the program is appropriated retroactively, which means the funding for the 2009-2010 school year will be decided during the upcoming 2010 legislative session. This method of funding the program is causing a great deal of concern for the upcoming year as the Senate Appropriations Committee closely examines the state’s budget obligations.

DESE received a letter from Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Gary Nodler (R-Joplin) and House Budget Committee Chairman Allen Icet (R-Wildwood) in July. In the letter, they explained that when legislators created this program in 1985, they were not aware of what the level of participation or the cost of the program might be.

In that first year, 63 school districts representing 2,400 teachers participated, costing the state $2.6 million. During the 2007-2008 school year, 342 districts representing 17,980 teachers participated in the program at a cost of $36 million to the state. The success of the program is, in a roundabout way, its own worst enemy. The more the Career Ladder is used, the more is costs, but the more successful it is.

I am committed to working with my colleagues to see this program funded through the current budget year; teachers and school districts have already planned accordingly and the state should follow through on its commitment to our kids.

Federal stimulus dollars will keep the Career Ladder Program funded for the time being. After that, it will be back on the Legislature to find a way to keep it going, if deemed appropriate. My hope is we will give this — and everything in our budget — the attention it deserves.

Senator Stouffer serves the counties of Carroll, Chariton, Cooper, Howard, Lafayette, Macon, Ray, Saline, and a part of Clay.

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  1. […] Ervin, Representative Ryan Silvey, Representative Trent Skaggs, Senator Luann Ridgeway Back in August I made a post about the Missouri Career Ladder Funding. For those that don’t know Career […]

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