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Teacher evaluation bill causes committee shake-up

  

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo — The same day a bill changing the way teachers are evaluated failed to pass the House Fiscal Review Committee, House Speaker Tim Jones, R-Eureka, removed the two Republican members from the committee who voted against the bill.

Now Jones is once again pushing for the bill’s passage.

Representatives Denny Hoskins, R-Warrensburg, and Jeffery Messenger, R-Springfield, both opposed Senate Bill 125 for “policy concerns,” Jones told reporters last week.

“The purpose of that committee is to review the fiscal note associated with the bill,” Jones said. According to Jones, Hoskins and Messenger had a “misunderstanding” about the purpose of the Fiscal Review Committee.

Their objection to SB 125 because of policy disagreements led to Jones removing both members from the committee and appointing freshmen Reps. Kathy Swan, R-Cape Girardeau, and Sonya Anderson, R-Springfield, to replace them.

Both Hoskins and Messenger disagreed with Jones’s assessment that they had a “fundamental misunderstanding” of the purpose of the committee.

“Nobody has expressed that concern to me and I’ve been on the committee since the start of session,” Messenger told The Missouri Times. “I think [Jones] wanted [SB 125] out of committee. I was a little surprised to hear that I ‘don’t get’ fiscal review, the purpose of fiscal review is very clear to me.”

Messenger confirmed that he had policy concerns, but also said that the cost of the bill was unclear in the fiscal note, adding his concern that the majority of the costs could be passed down to local school districts.

Hoskins, who met with Jones immediately following his vote against SB 125 last Thursday, said he was removed from the committee because he objected to one of the Jones’s “top education priorities.” Like Messenger, Hoskins said that not only was the fiscal note unclear, but that he objected heavily to the loss of “local control” that could result from the vote.

Hoskins also said that, despite not mentioning the issue in his weekly Capitol Report, he had received more than 250 emails by Monday afternoon, almost exclusively supporting his decision to oppose the bill.

Both Swan and Anderson voted to approve SB 125 and move it out of the fiscal review committee during their hearing on Monday, April 29.

The moves highlight Jones desire to pass the new standards, despite a resounding defeat on a similar measure originating in the House a few weeks ago. The bill, HB 631, was defeated 55-102, despite strong support from members of GOP House leadership.

The legislation is now likely to come back up in the House in the coming days. Swan said lawmakers “have been instructed to stay on the floor for votes” on the education bills.

In addition to Hoskins and Messenger, two other lawmakers lost their committee memberships on the House Education Committee. Reps. Elaine Gannon, R-DeSoto, and Mike Thompson, R-Maryville, were also pulled from their slots.

Gannon, who said as of the start of session Monday afternoon she still hadn’t officially found out from House leadership that she was removed from the committee, said she isn’t sure why she was removed.

“I was not confrontational at all in committee meetings,” she said. “Now, one newspaper printed that somebody made a comment I was always voting with the Democrats. Well, personally, public education isn’t a Republican or Democrat issue.”

A retired teacher, Gannon emphasized that she voted for her district, “not a committee or someone who is high-up.”

Jones, speaking to reporters on Monday, said he planned to appoint a second committee on education for those who disagree with his position on education reform.

Ashley Jost an Eli Yokley contributed to this report.