Column: Martin Casas: HB631 and the defeat of President Obama


Last week something incredible happened. The Speaker of the Missouri House, Tim Jones, R-Eureka, fought for President Barack Obama’s education priorities when he brought Kevin Elmer’s, R-Nixa, House Bill 631 (Educator Quality) up for a vote. That’s right–one of the most conservative members of one of the most conservative legislatures in the country advocated for President Barack Obama’s agenda.

Martin Casas from St. Louis, Mo.
Martin Casas
from St. Louis, Mo.

If one were to read the White House website, you might believe that Representatives Elmer and Jones got their ideas about reforming the teaching profession from the Democratic Party because this is where the President lays out his progressive agenda for reforming educator quality. The site reads “Once fair, rigorous evaluations for teachers and leaders are in place, they can serve as a foundation for connecting educator performance with differentiated professional development, compensation, and career advancement.”

If you have been watching the news out of Jefferson City and Washington, DC you probably know the opportunities for bipartisan cooperation on anything other than naming bridges are few and far between. So when I heard Representative Elmer presenting HB631 to the full House and advocating for the same public policy President Obama supports, I was hopeful my party and Jones’ party had finally come together to do what was best for kids. Ah, but alas the Missouri General Assembly did just the opposite.

Representative Elmer did a fantastic job explaining that HB631 changed the evaluation system for educators to ensure that the adults tasked with educating our children are evaluted in part on student academic growth. He then proceeded to layout the framework for how those evaluations should guide personnel decisions.  All of this seems reasonable to me, however, HB631 was voted down 55-102. With just two Democrats and less than half of the Republican caucus voting in favor.

The public education lobby celebrated the defeat, calling it a win against corporate reformers. However, in reality they just defeated their President whom they re-elected not more then 5 months ago.

Democrats and Republicans had an opportunity to reform the teaching profession, but instead of leading they took the easy way out. In doing so Democrats defeated their own President and Republicans gave up their mandate of change and allowed things to go on as usual.

Martin Casas lives in St. Louis with his wife and very funny daughter. He is the former owner of Frontyard Features and currently “guy who runs the thing” at Grand Market at new outdoor marketplace in Grand Center. He is also active in his community, working on whichever issues cross his path.