Harmful legislation-please follow

Before I started my blog, I wrote a memo summarizing some issues with a bill that is currently working it’s way through the process in the state of Missouri.  I would like to share that memo here, and point out that substitutions have been filed since my memo, but the bill still deserves our attention and tracking.  The memo (albeit a little lengthy) is as follows:

A memo regarding HB628 (Dieckhaus)


I recently spent an evening in Jefferson City as the MSTA Legislative Committee hosted a reception for legislators.  During that time, I had the opportunity to spend nearly an hour talking with Rep. Scott Dieckhaus, the chairman of the House Education Committee.  From that conversation, I think it’s important that you have some information related to this bill and some information I learned that night from the bill’s author.


I’m not sure I can be more sincere with this following statement: This is a critical time for educators in the state of Missouri.  I’m not sure why, and I’m troubled by it, but there is a growing sentiment among legislators that public education is full of incompetent and underperforming teachers.  I disagree.  The same people that have this belief also have the belief that they have the solutions to fixing this problem in education, all under the huge umbrella they call “reform”.  It really is time for Missouri educators to be vigilant.


HB628 would eliminate tenure for teachers in the state of Missouri.  It would also render all salary schedules in school districts obsolete as it would create a 4-tiered system of teacher salaries based upon what tier each teacher falls into.  Tier 1 (the top tier) would contain the top 17% of teachers in a district.  Tier 4 would contain the bottom 33% of teachers in a district.  Teachers would be placed on tiers based upon an annual (EVERY YEAR) comprehensive performance-based evaluation (one half) and upon student test scores (one half). The test scores would be based upon a pre- and post-test (yet to be created).


I put a pencil and paper to this to see what type of financial impact this would have on salaries.  If a school district set their base salary at $30000, this is what it would look like:

            Tier 1              Bottom 33% of teachers      $30,000

            Tier 2              Teachers 33%-66%              Approx. $33,000

            Tier 3              Teachers 66%-83%              Approx. $42,000

            Tier 4              Top 17% of teachers                        Approx. $65,000

While being a Tier 4 teacher may initially look attractive, there are some facts that should be pointed out:

            -66% of teachers would make $33,000 or less- a pay cut for most teachers,

            even in districts that pay a $30,000 base (many have a lower base).

            -A teacher that moved from Tier 4 to Tier 3 in one year would have a $23,000

            (35%) cut in pay- how would a teacher ever budget?

            -No matter how good your scores or evaluations, ONLY 17% can be in the top

            tier, creating an environment of competition among teachers, in stark

            contrast to the collaborative environment that is good for kids.

            -No details were provided for how test scores would be determined for those non-

            tested subject teachers (including librarians, counselors, etc.).


When I spoke with Rep. Dieckhaus, I hadn’t had the time to do the math to see the above referenced numbers.  I did ask him about his feeling that tenure needed to be removed.  He told me that administrators told him it took 2 full years to remove a bad teacher.  I informed him that was untrue.  (By the way, the School Administrators’ Coalition is opposed to this bill).  Tenure doesn’t protect bad teachers, bad administrators do.  If an administrator wants to put the work in to remove a bad teacher, it can be done.  A process exists.  He intimated to me that if he owned a business and a salesman underperformed, he could remove them immediately.   He feels that it should be the same with teachers.  I agreed that under Missouri’s employment laws, employment may be terminated by either party at any time.  I pointed out that the difference with a certified teacher is that they sign a contract, a commitment by both parties for a stated period of time.  He felt the contract was not really necessary.  Another person then asked if a teacher’s spouse had a job transfer on March 1, should a teacher be able to leave without any repercussions.  He didn’t believe they should be able to.  Quite a double standard.


I also suggested that the decision of how to pay teachers should be left up to local school boards to make the best decisions with their resources.  Rep. Dieckhaus suggested that Jefferson City could do a better job of that.  Not sure that I had heard him right, I asked if he really felt Jefferson City knew better how to set local salaries than a local school board.  He replied that local school boards are often filled with members who have agendas and are often incompetent.  I suggested that his statement was in direct contrast to our representative form of government, belying his party’s usual stance of less government being preferable.  He reiterated his belief that Jefferson City knew better how to set salaries for districts.  By the way, Rep. Dieckhaus was a teacher for 4 years before becoming a legislator.  He also cannot be dismissed a loose cannon running around in Jefferson City with singular thoughts that can’t affect us, he is in a leadership position as the CHAIR of the EDUCATION COMMITTEE.


This has been somewhat lengthy, but I feel it is important for all of you to know what I witnessed first-hand and to also give you the basic facts behind this bill and the thinking associated with it.  I don’t want to sound all doom and gloom, but I’m scared for Missouri educators.  We have long been a group that has only dipped our toe in the political pool that is Jefferson City.  I’m afraid continued reluctance to become involved could be detrimental.  In my committee meeting, we didn’t discuss ANY of our legislative priorities, we know that there will be no offense from us this session, this is strictly a session of defense, where we try to dig our heels in and hang on to what we have at this point. This is going to take a grass roots effort from our members, from educating new legislators about what tenure REALLY is to educating the general public about how detrimental a bill like this could be to education in Missouri, long term.  We need you to join the Rapid Response team and act when asked.  We need legislators to understand that a teacher’s working conditions can be more accurately described as a child’s learning conditions.


Thank you for taking the time to read this.  I hope you will help us defeat this bill and similar bills. Remember, the School Administrators’ Coalition is also opposed to this bill.  We are all on the same side with this issue.  Please help us be proactive.





Robert Sigrist

Chair, MSTA Legislative Committee