The organization that first uncovered controversial emails underlying a Missouri plan to remake Kansas City Public Schools wants the state school board to hold off on voting on any plan for unaccredited districts.
By JOE ROBERTSON
The Kansas City Star
And if the state board won’t delay on its own, the organization wants Gov. Jay Nixon to put on the brakes.
“We want the governor to put a halt to this situation,” the Rev. Rodney E. Williams of the Metropolitan Organization for Racial and Economic Equity — or MORE2 — said Thursday.
Education Commissioner Chris Nicastro and her staff are gathering public input on several proposals on how the state should intervene in poor-performing districts, with a target date of recommending a plan to the state board Feb. 18.
The process is going forward while questions remain about the process by which the state education department commissioned its own study from Indianapolis-based CEE-Trust, with funding for the study coming from the Kauffman and Hall Family foundations.
MORE2, a coalition of area church congregations, used a Sunshine Law request last fall to gather email correspondence between the state, CEE-Trust and the foundations. The Star reported on the matter in early December.
The Missouri auditor’s office in mid-January announced it would review the contract. But more questions arose after Missouri Ethics Commission records showed that state school board president Peter Herschend on Jan. 24 contributed $25,000 to state auditor Tom Schweich’s re-election campaign.
Schweich told The Star that he had already recused himself from any involvement in an audit of the education department because of prior support his campaign had received from Herschend. The decision to review the CEE-Trust contract was made by deputy auditor Harry Otto, who is carrying the review out and will determine whether there are any findings, Schweich said.
Rep. Gail McCann Beatty, in a separate announcement from MORE2, also called on the state to re-examine its process before going forward. Beatty, a Kansas City Democrat, said she is calling for an outside auditor to take over the review of the contract.
Nicastro said Wednesday night that she thinks the education department needs to press forward to make a recommendation for action to the state board.
She spoke to The Star after hearing public comment from a crowd of more than 500 people who had filled the theater at Paseo Academy to hear and discuss several proposals under consideration.
“If anything is going to happen for the next school year, we need time for a smooth transition,” Nicastro said. “We are staying focused on what the state should do to help the district and intervene.”
Nixon and his spokesman were not available Thursday afternoon. The governor has not spoken publicly on the Kansas City process.
Comment on proposals
The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education has a web page at www.dese.mo.gov where readers can review the proposals for unaccredited districts and offer comments.
To reach Joe Robertson, call 816-234-4789 or send email to email@example.com.