Letter to the Editor

State education board needs scrutiny, change

Wednesday, October 5, 2005

Dear Editor:

Matt Blunt made the recommendation that the governor appoint the commis-sioner of the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. Currently, the commissioner is selected by the State Board of Education.

The commission claims the gubernatorial appointment would "strengthen the leadership of the position and would increase the governor's accountability for public education." Many individuals and organizations, including the Missouri State Teachers Association, believe an appoint-ment would only politicize the process. In addition, the recommendation fails to address the fundamental core of the issue. Namely, if there is concern about how policies are made, why not scrutinize the group that actually makes policy, the Missouri State Board of Education.

Our constitution allows a member to be appointed to the State Board of Education for a term of eight years. After the initial appointment, board members can be reappointed indefinitely. Many of the current members of the State Board of Education were appointed to serve long before the class of 2006 was born.

The same arguments used when term limits were placed on those who serve in our state legislature apply to those who serve for decades on the state board. Complacency and group think begin to take root, and new and innovative ideas are summarily ignored. Consequently, we should begin the process of instituting term limits for state board members.

The Missouri State Teachers Association believes practicing educators should be appointed to the State Board of Education. Education rules and initiatives are constantly changing. Former educators who serve as board members are no longer up to date on the needs of our children, and the education policies they are setting for Missouri are outdated.

Imagine a committee making decisions concerning medical policy without any practicing physicians. Educators do not even have the opportunity to make public comment during state board meetings. It is time that direct input from professionals that deal daily with student issues be involved in setting education policy.

The reorganization commission came close to addressing the true concern. Now is the time to create a State Board of Education that is accountable and understands the issues classroom teachers face each day. Missouri deserves a board that listens to all the stakeholders involved in a child's educational process.


Kent King

Executive Director, Missouri State Teachers Association

Jefferson City, Missouri