Missouri bill affecting KC school takeover stalls in deadlocked committee

A pair of House Republicans lost their seats on a committee Thursday over their refusal to support legislation that would give the state the authority to immediately take over the troubled Kansas City Public Schools.

But the issue — which may have dealt a fatal blow the bill — has nothing to do with Kansas City Public Schools.

The problem stems from the fact that the bill also includes provisions dealing with teacher tenure and evaluations for school administrators and teachers.

Earlier this month the House defeated a similar teacher evaluations bill on a 102-55 vote. Despite the fact that House Speaker Tim Jones has called the bill one of his biggest legislative priorities of the year, a majority of his own party voted against it.

Last week, House leadership tied the teacher evaluation and Kansas City schools bill together in a last-ditch effort to move the idea forward. But before the legislation could come up for debate in the House, a hearing had to be conducted before the fiscal review committee.

On a 4-4 vote, the committee refused to allow the legislation to move forward. In response, Jones informed the two Republicans who voted against the bill — Reps. Denny Hoskins of Warrensburg and Jeffrey Messenger of Republic — that they were off the committee.

He replaced them with lawmakers supportive of the bill.

“It’s frustrating,” Hoskins said. “I have a philosophical problem with this bill, and when I voiced that concern, the speaker informed me that my services on the committee would no longer be needed.”

Messenger echoed that story, saying when he told Jones he wasn’t comfortable changing his vote, “I was told I was off the committee.”

Jones said the issue is that the two lawmakers have concerns with the bill beyond the scope of their committee, which is fiscal review. Because they did not stick to the committee’s purpose, they were removed, he said.

His actions so far have made no difference, however. In order for the committee to take up the bill again, someone who voted against it has to agree to allow the committee to reconsider.

House leaders made several attempts to sway Rep. Brandon Ellington, a Kansas City Democrat. When he refused to change his vote, the committee had to adjourn for the week without passing the bill.