The General Assembly passed the 2016 budget last week and the Governor signed it, with two caveats for education.

From the Governor’s letter on HB2.

“On May 8, 2015, I approved Conference Committee Substitute for Senate Committee Substitute… HB2. However, Section 2.070 of  [the bill] contains language that is inconsistent with existing law relating to the state’s education assessment plan. The legislature may not create new and different mandates or amend current legal requirements through the appropriations process. It is well-settled that “to inject general legislation of any sort into an appropriations act is repugnant to the constitution” See State ex rel. Hueller v Thompson, 289 S.W. 338, 340(MO banc 1926). Indeed, “[a]ppropriations of money for payment of state obligations and the amendment of a general statute are entirely different and separate subjects for legislative action.” Igoe v. Bradford, 611 S.W.2d 343, 350 (Mo. App. 1980)…

Section 2.070 seeks to require “that no later than February 1, 2016 the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education shall submit a plan for the development and implementation of a new, Missouri-based state assessment plan for review and approval by the House Budget Committee and Senate Appropriations Committee…” Existing state law does not mandate the development of a new state assessment plan by a date certain, and the legislature may not seek to impose such a requirement through an appropriations bill. Moreover, the attempt to extend approval authority of a new state assessment plan to the House Budget Committee and Senate Appropriations Committee is similarly flawed due to its conflict with current law. Section 160.526.2 RSMo, provides a process by which the entire General Assembly can veto implementation, modification or revision to the sate assessment plan by concurrent resolution adopted by majority vote of both chambers…”

Such a concurrent resolution was given to the general assembly in January of this year, in accordance with current state statute, to reject the SBAC test due to the numerous issues associated with the test (e.g. its lack of validity and reliability data, its potential development by an illegal interstate compact [which was eventually confirmed by a state court]) The powers that be in the legislature decided that placing this language in the state budget was the preferred method to address the problem with assessment. Huh.

Nixon’s rejection of this requirement does not preclude the legislature from passing such a concurrent resolution in the future.  Perhaps the general assembly will rethink the position they took this session the next time they meet.

The Governor’s letter also stated,

“Section 2.070 of [the bill] states “that no funds from this section shall be used for assessment which generate results used to lower a public school district’s accreditation or a teacher’s evaluation.” This language broadly prohibits, without limitation, the use of assessment results to lower a district’s accreditation or in a teacher’s evaluation. By contrast, Section 161. 855.4, RSMo, – enacted only last year – limits the use of such results in the accreditation of districts and the evaluation of teachers only in the first year a new or changed statewide assessment system is utilized. The inconsistency between the substantive law and the language in the appropriations  bill must be resolved in favor of the substantive  law. The impact of assessment results on a school district’s accreditation or in a teacher’s evaluation will be guided by section 161.855.4, RSMo.”

This language, offered by Representative Monticillo, while potentially inconsistent with the language in HB1490 passed last year, is entirely consistent with the vote of the people of Missouri on Amendment 3 last year.  It is not surprising that the Governor of the “coalition of the willing,” who secretly piloted a teacher assessment program that has student assessment scores as a major component and bragged about it to the National Governor’s Association, would be opposed to this language.

It will be up to the General Assembly again to pass a bill that reflects the will of the people next session to override the will of the Governor with respect to the use of assessment scores, which basically serve to reflect socio-economic status of the test taker,  to decide the fate of districts and teachers.

The gauntlet has been laid down General Assembly.  Will you pick it up?

Anne Gassel

Anne has been writing on MEW since 2012 and has been a citizen lobbyist on Common Core since 2013. Some day she would like to see a national Hippocratic oath for educators “I will remember that there is an art to teaching as well as science, and that warmth, sympathy and understanding are sometimes more important than policy or what the data say. My first priority is to do no harm to the children entrusted to my temporary care.”

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