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Vescovo threatens lawmakers’ bills over education reform, reps say

  

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — The hearings on several House bills have been pulled in the last 48 hours, and two state representatives have told The Missouri Times they have been called into Speaker Rob Vescovo’s office and had their own legislation threatened should they not support his education reform efforts.

The lawmakers, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said they were recently called into the speaker’s office who said the future of their bills are jeopardized if they did not support charter expansion legislation and other education reform proposals.

Vescovo has earmarked education reform as a top priority for him as he took over the leadership position earlier this year. The biggest part of his address at the beginning of session was centered around the issue —with the expansion of charter schools into rural Missouri as the centerpiece of the reform cause. 

“I look at the ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach our system too often takes, and I believe it failed me just as it fails countless other students each year,” Vescovo said then, recounting his own struggles with school and ADHD growing up. 

However, the St. Louis-area speaker has run into several issues passing his agenda through the typically malleable House with several rural Republicans stating they would vote for their districts’ priorities over Vescovo on the issue. 

Several House members have also expressed their belief that a handful of prize chairmanships were given out to legislators who were willing to flip their stance on education reform. 

While the heavy-handed tactics from the speaker’s office have ruffled as many feathers as have seen members capitulate, apparently not all of House leadership has been involved in the strong arming. 

One senior member of House leadership said he was not aware of these conversations happening with the speaker. He said he is focused on legislation on the House calendar and has shown a preference for persuading representatives on the merits of the issues over threatening caucus members. 

Vescovo did not immediately respond to a request for comment. 

Education reform was brought before the Senate Tuesday morning. Sen. Cindy O’Laughlin, who is championing the language in the upper chamber, is back in the Capitol after being sidelined with an illness for several weeks.