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JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Missouri State Board of Education has endorsed a plan for assisting and intervening in school districts.

Districts are to be classified in tiers based upon performance, and state involvement would increase as performance worsened. Education officials could tailor what steps are taken based upon the situation within a school district.

The education board approved the framework Friday and directed state education officials to start work toward applying it to specific districts. Education Commissioner Chris Nicastro says the first step is likely to be an overview of districts that are currently unaccredited or have provisional accreditation.

Missouri officials have been considering school plans since a law took effect last year that gave the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education more power to intervene in struggling districts.

Published in Local News
   Missouri education officials want to intervene sooner in school district that are struggling to maintain accreditation.  That was the jist of the plan officials with the State Department of Elementary and Secondary Education outlined at a public meeting on the UMSL campus Tuesday night.  Education officials held the meeting to gather feedback on the proposed plan to improve performance in stuggling districts.  
   Most of the speakers expressed concerns that the plan doesn't do enough to help districts that are already failing and burdened with the cost of a state mandated transfer program, districts like Normandy.  
   Missouri Education Commissioner Dr. Chris Nicastro spoke with Fox 2 News.  She acknowledges that the problems in Normandy go beyond those addressed by DESE's proposal. "Unless something significant happens in the legislature to alter the course, it's pretty clear that the transfer program expenditures will cause the district to go bankrupt," Nicastro said.
   Many at last night's meeting also took the opportunity to criticize the transfer program and its affect on districts like Normandy.  That includes Maryville University Professor Emeritus Dan Rocchio. "We need to be changing the system within the district," Rocchio said, "as opposed to spending money to send kids outside the district."
   Public comments on DESE's proposed plan can be submitted online at www.dese.mo.gov/unaccredited-districts.
 
 
 
 
 
 
Published in Local News
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) - Missouri's four-year public universities would be rewarded for good performance under legislation passed by the state Senate.
 
Under the bill, the 13 universities would get funding increases tied to certain performance standards.
 
The colleges would work with the Department of Higher Education to develop five goals. Three of those goals must be tied to graduation and retention rates as well as job placement in a field appropriate for a graduating student's degree level.
 
The legislation would apply only in years the state can afford to increase higher education funding and would expire in 2016.
 
A 2012 state law requires the development of a funding formula for Missouri's public universities.
 
Senators voted 33-0 to send the measure to the House on Thursday.
Published in Local News
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) - Missouri organizations representing teachers, administrators and school board members are supporting a plan for unaccredited districts as state education officials start digging into several proposals.
 
The Missouri School Boards' Association said Monday the plan calls for a contract between the State Board of Education and unaccredited school districts. Districts would commit to improving their performance while the state would classify the districts as provisionally accredited. It would relieve the school systems from a Missouri law that requires unaccredited school districts to pay for students to transfer to higher-performing districts elsewhere.
 
Kansas City and two school districts in St. Louis County are unaccredited.
 
Numerous plans have been submitted to the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. The State Board of Education is holding a work session Monday.
Published in Local News

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Missouri is going to begin picking up the tab for students to take the ACT college entrance exam and dramatically reduce the amount of time some elementary and middle school students spend taking state assessments.

When the changes take effect next school year, Missouri will join more than a dozen states that already offer the ACT test to all their students. Missouri plans to offer the test once, free of charge to high school juniors.

Elementary and middle school students also will see changes as the state switches to new assessments tied to the Common Core standards for math and reading. Students in third, fourth, sixth and seventh grades will take a one-hour version of the test. Only fifth- and eighth-graders will take a longer seven-hour version.

Published in Local News
   Governor Jay Nixon wants more money for Missouri schools.  In his State of the State address Tuesday, Nixon said revenues are up in Missouri and he wants legislators to use the bounty to make a major investment in education and not just another tax cut.  Nixon asked for nearly $500 million more in education spending from preschool to grad school, calling it the best economic development tool there is.  
   He also called on lawmakers to fix the law that resulted in thousands of students transferring away from struggling school districts.  Nixon went on to defend public school teachers and criticized Republican lawmakers for trying to reduce their pay and take away tenure.  
   The governor also urged lawmakers to expand Medicaid to cover 300,000 low-income adults.  
   Nixon also called on lawmakers to pass the Missouri Nondiscrimination Act, outlawing bias against lesbians and gays in the workplace. 
 
Transcript of Nixon's 2014 State of the State address:
 
JEFFERSON CITY – Below is the text of the 2014 State of the State address, given tonight by Gov. Jay Nixon to a joint session of the Missouri General Assembly in Jefferson City:
 
Thank you, Lieutenant Governor Kinder, Speaker Jones, President Pro Tem Dempsey, judges of the Missouri Supreme Court, state officials, members of the legislature, members of my cabinet, and my fellow Missourians.
 
With us tonight are Missouri’s exceptional First Lady, Georganne, and our son, Will.
 
Tonight, we are honored to be joined by Missourians who put their lives on the line to protect the lives of others. Whether they fight our enemies abroad or protect our communities at home, these ordinary men and women do extraordinary things. They are real heroes.
 
On August 6, in the dark of night, deadly flash floods struck several Missouri communities without warning. In Pulaski County, creeks became raging rivers, rising by as much as 23 feet – inundating homes, washing out roads and, ultimately, claiming lives.
 
There were many acts of bravery that night, as state and local emergency personnel fanned out to look for folks who needed help.
 
Two local firefighters had been attempting to rescue a man and a young child, when their boat capsized in the rushing water, leaving all four of them clinging to a single guidewire.
 
Another local first responder had been holding two women above water for thirty minutes, never giving up on the rescue attempt, but tiring.
 
Fortunately, Corporal Lance DeClue and Lieutenant Justin McCullough of our Missouri State Highway Patrol were on duty that night.
 
Overcoming darkness and debris, pouring rain and treacherous floodwaters, and even a stalled rescue boat, troopers DeClue and McCullough got all seven of these individuals to safety.
 
Three years ago, when we worked together to merge the State Highway and Water Patrols, we knew this change would improve efficiency and reduce overhead. It has. But in the rushing waters that night, it was clear that the benefits of this reform went way beyond balance sheets. It saved lives.
 
I’d like us all to recognize Corporal DeClue and Lieutenant McCullough, who are with us tonight. Please join me in thanking them for their service and heroism.
 
These brave Missourians remind us that the true strength of our state cannot be measured in bricks or bushels, but in the talents and tenacity of our citizens. 
 
Here in Missouri, folks don’t shy away from challenges – they work together to tackle them. Getting up early… working hard… staying late… and looking out for one another. 
 
And thanks to the people of Missouri, the state of our state is strong, and growing stronger with each passing day.
 
In every corner of our state, wages are up, personal income is up, and unemployment continues to fall.
 
In fact, since I took office in January 2009, Missouri’s unemployment rate has dropped from 8.6 percent to 6.1 percent, and it’s been below the national average for 51 straight months.
 
Since this time last year, Missouri has added nearly 44,000 jobs. And when you look at the pace of private sector job growth, Missouri was top 10 in the nation – better than every single one of our neighboring states.
 
Agriculture exports from Missouri have increased by more than a billion dollars over the past five years – 71 percent – thanks to Missouri farmers and ranchers. 
 
Behind these impressive numbers are significant investments by companies that are hiring and growing all across our state – high-tech global brands like Monsanto, Expedia, Express Scripts and Cerner, to name just a few,  along with small businesses and startups like CoFactor Genomics in St. Louis and Brewer Science in Rolla.
 
We all know that if you want to win, you’ve got to compete. That’s why I want to thank this General Assembly for helping us make Missouri a finalist for the Boeing 777X. We didn’t win the biggest prize – but we competed at the highest level.
 
It’s important to remember, it was just three and a half years ago, that we came together in another special session that also had very high stakes.  
 
Auto plants had closed. Jobs had gone overseas. And folks thought it wouldn’t be long before the last Missouri-made vehicle rolled off the line.  
 
But instead of giving up, we took action. 
 
Together, we passed the Missouri Manufacturing Jobs Act, we upped our investments in workforce training, and we saved Missouri’s auto industry. 
 
Today, Missouri’s automotive comeback continues to make headlines. Just look at last week:
 
On Sunday, GM unveiled the all-new Missouri-made GMC Canyon….
 
On Monday, Ford unveiled the all-new Missouri-made F-150…
 
Later that day, we welcomed a new automotive supplier – Janesville Acoustics – and over 150 jobs to Warrensburg.
 
And on Thursday, Ford announced the hiring of the 1,000th worker to build the Ford Transit van, previously built exclusively overseas.
 
Ask any autoworker in Claycomo or Wentzville about the pride they take in building the next-generation of American-made vehicles, and they’ll tell you it means a lot more than just a paycheck. 
 
For those autoworkers and their families, the work we do here is very real.
 
Our economic progress is no accident. It’s the result of a clear and unwavering focus on strict fiscal discipline and smart investments.
 
We’re the Show-Me State, so we developed a strategic plan, and we followed it. 
 
Instead of engaging in Washington-style deficit spending, we kept our fiscal discipline – balancing budgets, cutting waste and keeping taxes low. This past year, all three major rating agencies reaffirmed Missouri’s perfect AAA credit rating. 
 
Tonight, as I have every year, I am proposing a balanced budget that holds the line on taxes – and continues to downsize government, cutting 81 more positions from state payrolls. By the end of this fiscal year, we will have reduced the state workforce by 4,600 full-time employees.
 
But we didn’t just make government smaller – we made it smarter. We reduced energy use, sold off surplus property and put more state services online. My budget continues to invest in technology to provide Missourians with the efficient, effective, accountable government they deserve.
 
Keeping our fiscal house in order helped us protect our shared values. We made sure that as we moved our economy forward, we didn’t leave folks behind: a young child with autism, a student working her way through college, a family rebuilding after a natural disaster, or a soldier returning from the frontlines.
 
Four years ago, we launched Show-Me Heroes to help employers recruit and hire our men and women in uniform. Two years ago, we strengthened it by making sure these veterans also get the training they need. Today, Show-Me Heroes continues to change lives. 
 
I recently visited one of the 3,400 Missouri companies that have taken the Show-Me Heroes pledge. At IBM in Columbia, we recognized the 5,000th veteran employed through this program. 
 
Our veterans fought for us – so we’re going to be there for them. 
 
For every soldier serving our country overseas, there’s a family back here at home – putting on a brave face each day for the kids. Families who, in soldiering on through the loneliness, lend their loved ones strength, lend us all strength – and so it’s important that we honor their sacrifice as well.   
 
Tonight we are joined by Heather Styles and her daughters, Paige and Payton. Heather’s husband of 11 years, Maj. Matthew Styles, is a helicopter pilot on his second deployment to Afghanistan. While he serves our country at war, Heather is holding down the fort at their home here in Jefferson City.
 
They represent thousands of military families all across our state who are counting down the days while their loved ones are in harm’s way. Please join me in thanking the Styles family for their service and sacrifice, and wishing Major Styles a safe and speedy return home.
 
Together, we’ve laid a solid foundation that got us through some tough economic times, and has brought us to a defining moment for our state.
 
Now, with our economy picking up steam, how do we build on that foundation?
 
With Washington paralyzed by politics, what can we do here in Missouri to make a lasting difference for real people?
 
And when it’s always easier to do the small things and then declare victory, how do we tackle the big challenges? The things that matter most: good schools, good jobs, and healthy communities for our kids to grow up in.
 
Missouri is a diverse state. Just here in this room, we’ve got farmers and small business owners; artists and outdoorsmen. There aren’t many things every single one of us would agree on.
 
But here’s one we can:
 
Our single greatest responsibility – as elected officials, as parents, as citizens of our state – is to make sure every child in Missouri has an opportunity to achieve his or her dreams.
 
And we all know, that opportunity starts with education.
 
For centuries, public education has been a value we cherish as Americans, a value we’ve reaffirmed time after time.
 
In the 1700s, Thomas Jefferson called for a public education system that would safeguard our young democracy from tyranny and oppression.
 
In the 1800s, we established the land grant university system, including the University of Missouri and Lincoln University.
 
By 1900, every state in the nation had free public elementary schools.
 
And when the Greatest Generation returned home from World War II – after literally saving the free world – a grateful nation honored them with something far more precious – and patriotic – than a ticker tape parade: the GI Bill.
 
Shepherded through Congress by Missouri Senator Champ Clark, the GI Bill gave millions of Americans an opportunity their parents never had: the chance to earn a college degree without going into debt.
 
Think of the impact that it had: between 1940 and 1950, the number of degrees awarded by U.S. colleges and universities more than doubled. Over the next half century, the percentage of Americans with a college degree quintupled.
 
They became engineers and small business owners; scientists and Supreme Court Justices; Presidents and preschool teachers.
 
They bought homes, started families, and launched companies – creating the modern middle class, and driving a postwar economic boom unlike anything the world had ever seen.
 
We’re joined by one of them tonight.
 
Dr. Frank Fontana of St. Louis served in the Army during World War II, and followed the frontlines all the way to Berlin. When he came home, the GI Bill provided him the opportunity to get a degree in optometry, and later he started his own practice.
 
He married the love of his life, Dorris, and they had two sons who they put through school. The GI Bill gave Frank the opportunity to pursue his dreams, to support his family, and become a great optometrist. I should know – he was mine.
 
Please join me in thanking Dr. Frank Fontanta for his service and for reminding us what the American dream is all about.
 
This nation’s greatest generation made a commitment to education – and as a result, they made the United States the driver of the global economy and the undisputed leader of the free world.
 
Now, it’s our turn to carry on that legacy.
 
Now, we must work to help every child start school ready to learn.
 
We must demand that every school is getting the job done.
 
And, we must make sure that every student can afford to get a college degree.
 
Together, let’s resolve to give our children and grandchildren more opportunities, better opportunities than we had, and build the future they deserve.
 
We need to start early. Parents and teachers see it every day: the first few years of a child’s development have an impact that lasts a lifetime.  
 
A child who starts kindergarten ready to learn, is more likely to succeed in school, go to college, and get a good job.  
 
Working together, over the last year, we’ve expanded access to early childhood education, giving more children the opportunity to go to high quality preschool in their communities.
 
But this year, it’s time that we do much more. Kids grow up fast – so there’s no time to waste. We must work together to make sure our kids start smart.
 
And that’s why my budget will nearly triple funding for the Missouri Preschool Program.
 
We will provide quality early learning opportunities to thousands more kids all across Missouri. But that’s just the beginning.
 
As many of you know, Georganne and I spend a lot of time at Missouri’s schools – touring classrooms, talking to students, meeting with teachers and staff. Sometimes, I shoot a few hoops.
 
Our schools are the hearts of our communities. They’re where we gather for picnics and dances, ball games and bingo – where lifelong friendships are made, and fundamental values are learned.
 
And in today’s global economy, whether you root for the DeSoto Dragons, the Sikeston Bulldogs or the Mound City Panthers, our K-12 schools must also be rigorous, high-tech institutions of innovation.
 
More technology. Smaller class sizes. Well-prepared teachers. The tools our kids need to succeed.
 
Accomplishing that goal is going to take an unwavering commitment by all of us, and it’s going to take money.
 
That’s why my budget increases funding for our K-12 classrooms this year by $278 million, and will put us on a path to fully funding the foundation formula next year.
 
Every one of us has run for office. And when we knocked on doors and folks asked if we believed in public education – we all said yes. And at every town hall meeting, when someone raised their hand and asked what we’d do for teachers – we said we’d support them. And on the campaign trail, I’ll bet almost all of us made a promise to invest in our students and our schools.   
 
Well, you know what? It’s time to put our budgets where our campaign brochures are.
 
Now it’s time to decide whether we’re merely going to talk about public education, or whether we’re going to fund it.
 
This is the test – and this is the year – to get serious about fully funding our schools. Our local schools will put these dollars to work in a big way for our kids and communities.
 
Here are just a few of the priorities that school districts have already identified:
 
In Kennett, every student will have a computer.
 
In Fort Zumwalt, 50 additional teachers will reduce class sizes, and give kids the personal attention they need.
 
In Santa Fe, they’ll bring back summer school, and establish the district’s first early childhood education program.
 
Up in Kirksville, they will implement Project Lead the Way – the hands-on curriculum that helps students understand and excel in science.
 
And in Springfield, 4,000 more three- and four-year-olds will have the opportunity to attend high-quality preschool.
 
Tonight we are joined by teachers, administrators, and board members from across the state. I’d like you to stand.  Please join me in thanking them for taking on the honorable challenge of educating our kids.
 
And with this commitment to fully funding the formula, we’re going to demand accountability and measurable results: tougher classes, higher test scores, and higher graduation rates.
 
Our students need to be ready to compete worldwide – and that means they have to raise their game, and we need to raise ours too.
 
We’ve got to believe in education so much, that we commit to making it better.
 
And when we talk about education – there is something that always bears repeating: there is no more honorable profession than being a teacher.
 
None of us would be in this room today were it not for the extraordinary people who taught us – and believed in us – years ago.
 
We are blessed to have so many talented teachers across our state, selfless public servants who stay late to make sure our children don’t fall behind, who often dig into their own pockets to make sure they have the materials they need to teach our kids.
 
And yet each year, there are some who believe the way to build up our schools is to tear down our teachers – trying to cut their pay, or reduce their retirement benefits or threaten their job security.
 
That simply needs to stop.
 
Now we can all support making smart reforms to our education system. And of course, we should hold educators accountable for the important job we entrust them to perform.
 
But instead of attacking public school teachers, we should make it our mission to recruit the best and brightest minds to take on the honorable work of teaching our kids. And that is exactly what this significant education investment will allow our local school districts to do. 
 
Tonight we are pleased to be joined by Tobin Schultz. Ever since he was in the ninth grade, Mr. Schultz knew he wanted to be a teacher – and at Joplin High School, he continues to inspire and motivate students each and every day. Last October, Mr. Schultz won the prestigious Milken Family Foundation National Educator Award. 
 
We were all inspired by how Joplin – even in its darkest hour – rallied behind its students and its schools. Just this month, 1,400 students in Joplin walked in to three brand new schools, marking another milestone in a remarkable recovery.
 
Mr. Schultz is joined by Joplin High School Principal Dr. Kerry Sachetta, A-Plus Coordinator Susan Day, and Superintendent Dr. C.J. Huff.
 
Please join me in thanking Mr. Schultz – and all of our teachers – for the vitally important work they do each day. 
 
At Joplin High, Mr. Schultz works hard to make sure kids are prepared to take the next step, and pursue the higher education they need for the careers they want.
 
Many of us have probably had the same conversation with our kids around the dinner table: we tell them that no matter what they’re interested in, the more education they get, the more financially secure they will be.
 
The numbers are stark: the unemployment rate among high school graduates is more than twice that of college graduates. And by the end of this decade, two-thirds of all jobs will require some kind of college credential.
 
Together, we’ve made great strides to make sure that a quality, affordable college education is an option for every family. In fact, over the past five years, Missouri’s public universities have led the nation in holding down tuition increases.  
 
Number one.
 
But we’re not done yet. Working together, we’re going to make sure students graduate from college with the skills to compete for good jobs, not a load of debt.
 
That’s why I have called on our four-year institutions to once again freeze tuition for Missouri undergraduates.
 
That’s right – under my budget, Missouri undergraduates at our public universities should not have to pay a penny more for tuition next year. Not a penny.
 
And no student should have to settle for less education, just because their parents make less money. 
 
So we’re doing something about that. My budget puts additional dollars behind our Access Missouri Scholarship program so that students from low-income families can get the financial aid they need.
 
And we’ll make sure Bright Flight lives up to its original mission of keeping our best and brightest students here in Missouri during college and after they graduate.
 
Finally, I’m proud to report that we’ve taken our A-Plus Schools program statewide, adding 266 schools since 2009 – giving thousands more students the opportunity to earn an A-Plus Scholarship.
 
Today, all across Missouri, students who work hard, play by the rules and give back to their communities can attend two years of community college – tuition free.
 
But affordability is only part of the equation.
 
Once again, core funding for our colleges and universities will be awarded based on performance: on how well our institutions meet specific goals.
 
And in the high-tech global economy, we need to make sure the degrees students pursue match the skills that businesses need.
 
Over the next decade, the jobs that are in highest demand will require at least some background in science, technology, engineering or math – the so-called STEM fields. 
 
We’re talking about software programmers and scientists, mathematicians and machinists, coders and chemists. 
 
The best way to attract more of these high-paying jobs is to make sure our workers have the skills to fill them – and that is exactly what our STEM initiative will do. 
 
With an initial investment of $22 million, this initiative will help our universities purchase state-of-the-art equipment, expand lab space and – most importantly – produce more graduates in these fast-growing fields. 
 
Investing in high-tech education will pack a huge punch for our economy.
 
Education must start early – but it can never stop.
 
With technology constantly advancing, we can’t forget that learning needs to be a lifelong endeavor.
 
Every Missourian willing to work hard and learn something new – no matter what their age or education level – should have the opportunity to take that next step and move up the economic ladder.
 
I thank the legislature for working with us to strengthen our workforce training tools, and give more Missouri workers the opportunity to sharpen their skills, and get better jobs.
 
From preschool to graduate school, in total, my budget includes 493 million additional dollars for education.
 
Our growing economy, combined with our sound budget management, affords us this unique opportunity to invest in our students’ future – our state’s future.
 
It’s our responsibility to do it.
 
But there are those who feel that instead of fully funding our schools, we should pull money out of our classrooms in order to experiment with our tax code.
 
Let’s get something straight: I’ve held the line on taxes every year I’ve been Governor and will do so again this year. 
 
Missouri’s a low-tax state – sixth lowest in the nation – and we like it that way. 
 
I’ve signed four tax cuts as your Governor – specific, targeted tax cuts that have helped our businesses expand and grow. For example, Missouri employers will save $70 million this year alone because we cut the corporate franchise tax. 
 
But here’s what I won’t do: I will not support anything that takes money out of our classrooms.
 
As we saw last summer, in community after community in all corners of our state, parents, teachers, administrators, school board members, business leaders and concerned citizens spoke out with one united voice.
 
The people of Missouri said they expect their elected leaders to support public schools, because they know that education is the best economic development tool there is.
 
High paying jobs, growing businesses, thriving communities – these are goals we share, so let’s invest in the one thing we know will help us achieve them: a workforce that can compete worldwide.
 
This is the year to send a budget to my desk that puts us on track to fully funding our schools, and builds the Missouri our kids deserve.
 
We’ve shown that we can work together to create better opportunities for all Missourians. Just look at what we’re doing – together – to serve Missourians with disabilities and mental illness.
 
In 2010, we passed landmark legislation to require insurance companies to cover the diagnosis and treatment of Autism Spectrum Disorders – and what a difference it’s made for our kids.
 
Today, because of this law, 1.6 million Missourians have coverage for these proven treatments, and more than 2,500 Missourians were treated for autism spectrum disorders last year. 
 
Our Partnership for Hope continues to be a tremendous and life-changing success for thousands of Missourians with developmental disabilities. My budget expands this vital program to even more Missourians, in more communities across the state. 
 
For years, thousands of Missourians with developmental disabilities were forced to wait months – often years – to get the in-home Medicaid services they needed – people like Nate Huffman from St. Peters, who I met when we first launched the Partnership for Hope in 2010. 
 
Back when he was in school, Nate had access to physical therapy and other services that helped him be more independent. He’d even gotten strong enough to walk around his high school track. But when he graduated, those services ended. 
 
For eight years, Nate’s condition and quality of life worsened while he was placed on a waiting list for in-home services. Eight years – it was heart-breaking. But that was before the Partnership for Hope. 
 
Today, Nate is doing much better. His physical therapy is going well and he’s able to communicate through a new computer system. He told me that his goal was to someday be able to walk around that track again – and thanks to the Partnership for Hope, he’s getting closer to reaching that goal each and every day.
 
Because of Missourians like Nate, each year I’ve been in office, we’ve made it a priority to chip away at that waiting list. 
 
And now I’m proud to report, this year that waiting list will no longer exist. 
 
Our friends and neighbors will now get the life-changing services they need, when they need them.
 
On mental illness – as tragedies across the nation exposed dangerous gaps in our country’s mental health safety net – we took action here in Missouri: 
 
We added new mental health liaisons at each of our 29 community mental health centers, so that our law enforcement officers can focus on being cops, not frontline caregivers. 
 
We launched seven targeted emergency room response teams, to ease the burden on our doctors and nurses.
 
And we made a historic investment in Mental Health First Aid training, so that more teachers, clergy, first responders and ordinary citizens can identify the signs of mental illness and know what to do. 
 
Together, we are training more than 1,000 Missourians on these proven, life-saving techniques. And with your help this session, we’ll train thousands more.
 
But as any member of law enforcement can tell you, there are those for whom preventative services are simply not enough. Some mental illnesses are so severe that those suffering from them are a danger to themselves and others.
 
Since 1851, this care has been provided at Fulton State Mental Hospital, Missouri’s only maximum security psychiatric facility – a facility that is crumbling and in desperate need of replacement.
 
It’s inadequate to the needs of patients. It’s dangerous for the staff who care for them. And it’s an embarrassment to our state. 
 
Now is the time to take action. 
 
That’s why I look forward to working with you to address this most urgent of needs and issue bonds to support the construction of a new mental hospital in Fulton.
 
Interest rates are low. Our credit rating is high. And the need is undeniable.  Friends, let’s roll up our sleeves, work together, and for the safety of all our communities, get it done this year.
 
And as we intensify our efforts to make sure that Missourians with mental illness and developmental disabilities get the appropriate care – it’s clear that we need more qualified professionals to provide that care.
 
Just look at the numbers – 104 of Missouri’s 114 counties are designated as mental health professional shortage areas; 72 counties lack even a licensed psychiatrist.
 
These are good jobs that are in demand now – we just need the qualified professionals to fill them. That is why my budget includes a $20 million investment to help our community colleges and universities train 1,200 more mental health professionals.
 
From teaching a child with autism how to interact with peers, to helping law enforcement respond to individuals in  mental health crisis, these health professionals will help keep our communities safe – and make sure all Missourians have the opportunity to live up to their God-given potential.  
 
The priorities I’ve just laid out are by no means the only issues that require our attention this session:
 
We need to restore the public’s faith in what we do here by reinstating strict campaign contribution limits and passing comprehensive ethics reform.
 
We need to rein in the tax credit programs that don’t deliver a solid return on our investment.
 
And we need to end discrimination against LGBT Missourians in the workplace. No Missourian should be fired because of who they are or who they love. Last year, the Missouri Nondiscrimination Act passed the Senate with bipartisan support, but failed to get to my desk. Let’s get it done this year.  
 
We need to fix the law that’s led to so much stress and uncertainty for families and schools, as thousands of students are transported from one district to another.
 
We need to have a robust discussion about our state’s long-term transportation infrastructure needs – and how to pay for them.
 
We need to develop a comprehensive energy plan for our state: one that balances the need for low-cost, reliable energy with our duty to be responsible stewards of the environment.
 
And we need to reauthorize the Missouri Rx program, to prevent more than 200,000 seniors and Missourians with disabilities from paying more for their prescription drugs. Let’s work together, as we did just three years ago, to extend this essential help for Missourians in need.
 
But the most significant improvement we could make to the health and wellbeing of our state is Medicaid, and it needs to get done this year.
 
Since New Year’s Day, Missouri taxpayers have spent $115 million and counting – $5.47 million a day – to improve and reform health care in other states, like Arkansas and Arizona, New Jersey and Iowa, Michigan and North Dakota. This adds up to $2 billion, or $500 for every Missouri taxpayer, every year. 
 
Each day we don’t act, these states use Missourians’ tax dollars to implement innovative reforms, like rewards for making healthier lifestyle choices and penalties for missing doctors’ appointments.
 
Each day we don’t act, Missouri’s Medicaid system continues as it has for years, without additional protections for taxpayers, or new measures to promote personal responsibility.
 
Each day we don’t act, thousands of Missouri women aren’t getting the preventive health care they need to detect breast or cervical cancer early – while there’s still time to treat it.
 
And each day we don’t act, nearly 300,000 working Missourians go another day without the treatment they desperately need, for no other reason than they live in Branson instead of Bentonville, in Cape Girardeau instead of Cairo, in Maryville instead of Muscatine.
 
And if you don’t see these folks knocking on your doors or lighting up your phone lines, it’s because they don’t have time. They’re working to pay the bills and make ends meet.
 
We all know there are problems with Obamacare, and Washington’s implementation of it has been abysmal.
 
But rejecting Medicaid won’t fix any of those things. It won’t keep Missourians from having to pay federal taxes, or exempt our businesses from new requirements under the law.
 
Instead, by standing still, we’re making the things we don’t like about Obamacare even worse, forcing Missourians to bear all the costs of this law – and reap none of the benefits. 
 
Think about that.
 
The people who are suffering now as a result of our failure to act don’t work in the White House – they work the night shift in our factories. They wait tables and scrub floors. They drive snow plows and look after our kids.
 
Right now, hundreds of thousands of these working Missourians can’t afford to get the basic health services they need to lead healthy, productive lives.
 
They’re folks like Anita Sutherland from Van Buren. Anita was a home health care worker who now works part-time at Head Start.
 
Being uninsured has already taken a toll. A year ago, Anita was diagnosed with uterine cancer and had to leave her full time job. Since then, she’s racked up over $100,000 in medical bills, and is suffering from complications of her cancer treatment. Today, buried in a mountain of debt and unable to afford the medical care she needs, Anita doesn’t see a way out. She feels hopeless.
 
But when we strengthen Medicaid, Anita will be covered. She’ll be able to get the treatment she needs and go back to working full time. She’ll have hope.
 
Working Missourians like Anita aren’t looking for a handout. They just want to get a checkup without wiping out their bank account. 
 
I challenge each one of you to think of any other bill that would make this kind of real and immediate difference – the kind of difference Medicaid expansion would make – in the lives of the people we represent.
 
I challenge each of you to consider how history will judge those who had the power to help people like Anita – and chose not to.
 
I challenge each of you to explain why it makes more sense to pay for Medicaid in other states, than it does to reform it in ours.
 
The path before us is clear:
 
We can make sure working folks can access affordable health care coverage.
 
We can improve and reform Medicaid in Missouri.
 
We can help people.
 
As the book of Isaiah says: “If you satisfy…. the needs of the afflicted, then your light shall rise in the darkness and your night will become like the noonday.”
 
At this time last year, the same Medicaid debate was taking place in state capitols across the country.
 
And since that time, we’ve seen Governors and legislators, Democrats and Republicans, in other states, come together to reform their health care systems. But here in Missouri we stood still. And now we’ve fallen behind. 
 
This year, Missouri is paying the cost.
 
This year, Missourians are suffering the consequences.
 
I look forward to working with all of you to bring affordable health coverage to working families in Missouri and reform Medicaid the Missouri way.
 
One year ago, many of us gathered in St. Louis to mourn the loss of an icon – Missouri’s adopted son, Stan Musial.
 
Stan the Man was a member of the Greatest Generation who put his career on hold to serve in World War II – and went on to become the greatest hitter in baseball history.
 
Stan was called baseball’s “perfect warrior” – because while he swung a loud bat, he also carried himself with a quiet dignity – always a gentleman.
 
He was known to say, “Every day you put this jersey on, it’s a privilege.”
 
The same can be said for all of us in this room.
 
Every day when you put that pin on your lapel, and enter these doors to do the people’s business, it’s a privilege.
 
And with that privilege comes responsibility.
 
The people of Missouri count on us to look out for their families as if they were our families.
 
To focus on what matters: Better jobs. Better schools. Better opportunities for their children.
 
And it’s easy to get caught up in the political back and forth of the day. Or the controversy of the hour. Or the latest tweet.
 
But we must be bigger than that, because the work we do here is very, very real.
 
It’s real to the parents in Bolivar who didn’t go to college but save money every week so someday their children can.
 
It’s real to the farmer in Trenton who nearly lost his crop during the drought of 2012, but has come charging back.
 
It’s real to the child with autism in O’Fallon who’s getting the ABA treatment he needs to learn and thrive.
 
And you better believe it’s real to the family in Joplin who lost everything and could have moved away and started anew – but they chose to stay right there to rebuild the town they love.
 
And their state government has been with them every step of the way –because that’s what we do. That’s why we serve.
 
We’re here to make a difference for those who work hard and need a hand – often times for people we’ll never meet.
 
Because the legacy we leave will not be measured by votes on Election Day or back-slaps in these hallways – it will be measured by the lasting impact we have on the communities we serve.
 
The opportunity we’ve been given – to make this kind of difference in the lives of those we represent – is as rare as it is fleeting.
 
Ten years from now, when trucks are still rolling off the line in Claycomo, folks might not remember the Missouri Manufacturing Jobs Act.
 
Twenty years from now, when the mom whose insurance paid for the cancer treatment that saved her life attends her son’s college graduation, she won’t know the names of the lawmakers who voted for Medicaid expansion.
 
And 30 years from now, when the student who was the first in her family to go to college takes the reins of a Fortune 500 company, she probably won’t credit the high quality preschool she attended.
 
But we will. And we’ll know we focused on the right things. We’ll know we made the right choices.
 
That’s our call to action. 
 
That’s the sacred responsibility we hold.
 
In the short time we’ve been given, let’s make it count.
 
Together, let’s build the Missouri our kids deserve.
 
Thank you, and God bless.
JEFFERSON CITY – Below is the text of the 2014 State of the State address, given tonight by Gov. Jay Nixon to a joint session of the Missouri General Assembly in Jefferson City:
 
Thank you, Lieutenant Governor Kinder, Speaker Jones, President Pro Tem Dempsey, judges of the Missouri Supreme Court, state officials, members of the legislature, members of my cabinet, and my fellow Missourians.
 
With us tonight are Missouri’s exceptional First Lady, Georganne, and our son, Will.
 
Tonight, we are honored to be joined by Missourians who put their lives on the line to protect the lives of others. Whether they fight our enemies abroad or protect our communities at home, these ordinary men and women do extraordinary things. They are real heroes.
 
On August 6, in the dark of night, deadly flash floods struck several Missouri communities without warning. In Pulaski County, creeks became raging rivers, rising by as much as 23 feet – inundating homes, washing out roads and, ultimately, claiming lives.
 
There were many acts of bravery that night, as state and local emergency personnel fanned out to look for folks who needed help.
 
Two local firefighters had been attempting to rescue a man and a young child, when their boat capsized in the rushing water, leaving all four of them clinging to a single guidewire.
 
Another local first responder had been holding two women above water for thirty minutes, never giving up on the rescue attempt, but tiring.
 
Fortunately, Corporal Lance DeClue and Lieutenant Justin McCullough of our Missouri State Highway Patrol were on duty that night.
 
Overcoming darkness and debris, pouring rain and treacherous floodwaters, and even a stalled rescue boat, troopers DeClue and McCullough got all seven of these individuals to safety.
 
Three years ago, when we worked together to merge the State Highway and Water Patrols, we knew this change would improve efficiency and reduce overhead. It has. But in the rushing waters that night, it was clear that the benefits of this reform went way beyond balance sheets. It saved lives.
 
I’d like us all to recognize Corporal DeClue and Lieutenant McCullough, who are with us tonight. Please join me in thanking them for their service and heroism.
 
These brave Missourians remind us that the true strength of our state cannot be measured in bricks or bushels, but in the talents and tenacity of our citizens. 
 
Here in Missouri, folks don’t shy away from challenges – they work together to tackle them. Getting up early… working hard… staying late… and looking out for one another. 
 
And thanks to the people of Missouri, the state of our state is strong, and growing stronger with each passing day.
 
In every corner of our state, wages are up, personal income is up, and unemployment continues to fall.
 
In fact, since I took office in January 2009, Missouri’s unemployment rate has dropped from 8.6 percent to 6.1 percent, and it’s been below the national average for 51 straight months.
 
Since this time last year, Missouri has added nearly 44,000 jobs. And when you look at the pace of private sector job growth, Missouri was top 10 in the nation – better than every single one of our neighboring states.
 
Agriculture exports from Missouri have increased by more than a billion dollars over the past five years – 71 percent – thanks to Missouri farmers and ranchers. 
 
Behind these impressive numbers are significant investments by companies that are hiring and growing all across our state – high-tech global brands like Monsanto, Expedia, Express Scripts and Cerner, to name just a few,  along with small businesses and startups like CoFactor Genomics in St. Louis and Brewer Science in Rolla.
 
We all know that if you want to win, you’ve got to compete. That’s why I want to thank this General Assembly for helping us make Missouri a finalist for the Boeing 777X. We didn’t win the biggest prize – but we competed at the highest level.
 
It’s important to remember, it was just three and a half years ago, that we came together in another special session that also had very high stakes.  
 
Auto plants had closed. Jobs had gone overseas. And folks thought it wouldn’t be long before the last Missouri-made vehicle rolled off the line.  
 
But instead of giving up, we took action. 
 
Together, we passed the Missouri Manufacturing Jobs Act, we upped our investments in workforce training, and we saved Missouri’s auto industry. 
 
Today, Missouri’s automotive comeback continues to make headlines. Just look at last week:
 
On Sunday, GM unveiled the all-new Missouri-made GMC Canyon….
 
On Monday, Ford unveiled the all-new Missouri-made F-150…
 
Later that day, we welcomed a new automotive supplier – Janesville Acoustics – and over 150 jobs to Warrensburg.
 
And on Thursday, Ford announced the hiring of the 1,000th worker to build the Ford Transit van, previously built exclusively overseas.
 
Ask any autoworker in Claycomo or Wentzville about the pride they take in building the next-generation of American-made vehicles, and they’ll tell you it means a lot more than just a paycheck. 
 
For those autoworkers and their families, the work we do here is very real.
 
Our economic progress is no accident. It’s the result of a clear and unwavering focus on strict fiscal discipline and smart investments.
 
We’re the Show-Me State, so we developed a strategic plan, and we followed it. 
 
Instead of engaging in Washington-style deficit spending, we kept our fiscal discipline – balancing budgets, cutting waste and keeping taxes low. This past year, all three major rating agencies reaffirmed Missouri’s perfect AAA credit rating. 
 
Tonight, as I have every year, I am proposing a balanced budget that holds the line on taxes – and continues to downsize government, cutting 81 more positions from state payrolls. By the end of this fiscal year, we will have reduced the state workforce by 4,600 full-time employees.
 
But we didn’t just make government smaller – we made it smarter. We reduced energy use, sold off surplus property and put more state services online. My budget continues to invest in technology to provide Missourians with the efficient, effective, accountable government they deserve.
 
Keeping our fiscal house in order helped us protect our shared values. We made sure that as we moved our economy forward, we didn’t leave folks behind: a young child with autism, a student working her way through college, a family rebuilding after a natural disaster, or a soldier returning from the frontlines.
 
Four years ago, we launched Show-Me Heroes to help employers recruit and hire our men and women in uniform. Two years ago, we strengthened it by making sure these veterans also get the training they need. Today, Show-Me Heroes continues to change lives. 
 
I recently visited one of the 3,400 Missouri companies that have taken the Show-Me Heroes pledge. At IBM in Columbia, we recognized the 5,000th veteran employed through this program. 
 
Our veterans fought for us – so we’re going to be there for them. 
 
For every soldier serving our country overseas, there’s a family back here at home – putting on a brave face each day for the kids. Families who, in soldiering on through the loneliness, lend their loved ones strength, lend us all strength – and so it’s important that we honor their sacrifice as well.   
 
Tonight we are joined by Heather Styles and her daughters, Paige and Payton. Heather’s husband of 11 years, Maj. Matthew Styles, is a helicopter pilot on his second deployment to Afghanistan. While he serves our country at war, Heather is holding down the fort at their home here in Jefferson City.
 
They represent thousands of military families all across our state who are counting down the days while their loved ones are in harm’s way. Please join me in thanking the Styles family for their service and sacrifice, and wishing Major Styles a safe and speedy return home.
 
Together, we’ve laid a solid foundation that got us through some tough economic times, and has brought us to a defining moment for our state.
 
Now, with our economy picking up steam, how do we build on that foundation?
 
With Washington paralyzed by politics, what can we do here in Missouri to make a lasting difference for real people?
 
And when it’s always easier to do the small things and then declare victory, how do we tackle the big challenges? The things that matter most: good schools, good jobs, and healthy communities for our kids to grow up in.
 
Missouri is a diverse state. Just here in this room, we’ve got farmers and small business owners; artists and outdoorsmen. There aren’t many things every single one of us would agree on.
 
But here’s one we can:
 
Our single greatest responsibility – as elected officials, as parents, as citizens of our state – is to make sure every child in Missouri has an opportunity to achieve his or her dreams.
 
And we all know, that opportunity starts with education.
 
For centuries, public education has been a value we cherish as Americans, a value we’ve reaffirmed time after time.
 
In the 1700s, Thomas Jefferson called for a public education system that would safeguard our young democracy from tyranny and oppression.
 
In the 1800s, we established the land grant university system, including the University of Missouri and Lincoln University.
 
By 1900, every state in the nation had free public elementary schools.
 
And when the Greatest Generation returned home from World War II – after literally saving the free world – a grateful nation honored them with something far more precious – and patriotic – than a ticker tape parade: the GI Bill.
 
Shepherded through Congress by Missouri Senator Champ Clark, the GI Bill gave millions of Americans an opportunity their parents never had: the chance to earn a college degree without going into debt.
 
Think of the impact that it had: between 1940 and 1950, the number of degrees awarded by U.S. colleges and universities more than doubled. Over the next half century, the percentage of Americans with a college degree quintupled.
 
They became engineers and small business owners; scientists and Supreme Court Justices; Presidents and preschool teachers.
 
They bought homes, started families, and launched companies – creating the modern middle class, and driving a postwar economic boom unlike anything the world had ever seen.
 
We’re joined by one of them tonight.
 
Dr. Frank Fontana of St. Louis served in the Army during World War II, and followed the frontlines all the way to Berlin. When he came home, the GI Bill provided him the opportunity to get a degree in optometry, and later he started his own practice.
 
He married the love of his life, Dorris, and they had two sons who they put through school. The GI Bill gave Frank the opportunity to pursue his dreams, to support his family, and become a great optometrist. I should know – he was mine.
 
Please join me in thanking Dr. Frank Fontanta for his service and for reminding us what the American dream is all about.
 
This nation’s greatest generation made a commitment to education – and as a result, they made the United States the driver of the global economy and the undisputed leader of the free world.
 
Now, it’s our turn to carry on that legacy.
 
Now, we must work to help every child start school ready to learn.
 
We must demand that every school is getting the job done.
 
And, we must make sure that every student can afford to get a college degree.
 
Together, let’s resolve to give our children and grandchildren more opportunities, better opportunities than we had, and build the future they deserve.
 
We need to start early. Parents and teachers see it every day: the first few years of a child’s development have an impact that lasts a lifetime.  
 
A child who starts kindergarten ready to learn, is more likely to succeed in school, go to college, and get a good job.  
 
Working together, over the last year, we’ve expanded access to early childhood education, giving more children the opportunity to go to high quality preschool in their communities.
 
But this year, it’s time that we do much more. Kids grow up fast – so there’s no time to waste. We must work together to make sure our kids start smart.
 
And that’s why my budget will nearly triple funding for the Missouri Preschool Program.
 
We will provide quality early learning opportunities to thousands more kids all across Missouri. But that’s just the beginning.
 
As many of you know, Georganne and I spend a lot of time at Missouri’s schools – touring classrooms, talking to students, meeting with teachers and staff. Sometimes, I shoot a few hoops.
 
Our schools are the hearts of our communities. They’re where we gather for picnics and dances, ball games and bingo – where lifelong friendships are made, and fundamental values are learned.
 
And in today’s global economy, whether you root for the DeSoto Dragons, the Sikeston Bulldogs or the Mound City Panthers, our K-12 schools must also be rigorous, high-tech institutions of innovation.
 
More technology. Smaller class sizes. Well-prepared teachers. The tools our kids need to succeed.
 
Accomplishing that goal is going to take an unwavering commitment by all of us, and it’s going to take money.
 
That’s why my budget increases funding for our K-12 classrooms this year by $278 million, and will put us on a path to fully funding the foundation formula next year.
 
Every one of us has run for office. And when we knocked on doors and folks asked if we believed in public education – we all said yes. And at every town hall meeting, when someone raised their hand and asked what we’d do for teachers – we said we’d support them. And on the campaign trail, I’ll bet almost all of us made a promise to invest in our students and our schools.   
 
Well, you know what? It’s time to put our budgets where our campaign brochures are.
 
Now it’s time to decide whether we’re merely going to talk about public education, or whether we’re going to fund it.
 
This is the test – and this is the year – to get serious about fully funding our schools. Our local schools will put these dollars to work in a big way for our kids and communities.
 
Here are just a few of the priorities that school districts have already identified:
 
In Kennett, every student will have a computer.
 
In Fort Zumwalt, 50 additional teachers will reduce class sizes, and give kids the personal attention they need.
 
In Santa Fe, they’ll bring back summer school, and establish the district’s first early childhood education program.
 
Up in Kirksville, they will implement Project Lead the Way – the hands-on curriculum that helps students understand and excel in science.
 
And in Springfield, 4,000 more three- and four-year-olds will have the opportunity to attend high-quality preschool.
 
Tonight we are joined by teachers, administrators, and board members from across the state. I’d like you to stand.  Please join me in thanking them for taking on the honorable challenge of educating our kids.
 
And with this commitment to fully funding the formula, we’re going to demand accountability and measurable results: tougher classes, higher test scores, and higher graduation rates.
 
Our students need to be ready to compete worldwide – and that means they have to raise their game, and we need to raise ours too.
 
We’ve got to believe in education so much, that we commit to making it better.
 
And when we talk about education – there is something that always bears repeating: there is no more honorable profession than being a teacher.
 
None of us would be in this room today were it not for the extraordinary people who taught us – and believed in us – years ago.
 
We are blessed to have so many talented teachers across our state, selfless public servants who stay late to make sure our children don’t fall behind, who often dig into their own pockets to make sure they have the materials they need to teach our kids.
 
And yet each year, there are some who believe the way to build up our schools is to tear down our teachers – trying to cut their pay, or reduce their retirement benefits or threaten their job security.
 
That simply needs to stop.
 
Now we can all support making smart reforms to our education system. And of course, we should hold educators accountable for the important job we entrust them to perform.
 
But instead of attacking public school teachers, we should make it our mission to recruit the best and brightest minds to take on the honorable work of teaching our kids. And that is exactly what this significant education investment will allow our local school districts to do. 
 
Tonight we are pleased to be joined by Tobin Schultz. Ever since he was in the ninth grade, Mr. Schultz knew he wanted to be a teacher – and at Joplin High School, he continues to inspire and motivate students each and every day. Last October, Mr. Schultz won the prestigious Milken Family Foundation National Educator Award. 
 
We were all inspired by how Joplin – even in its darkest hour – rallied behind its students and its schools. Just this month, 1,400 students in Joplin walked in to three brand new schools, marking another milestone in a remarkable recovery.
 
Mr. Schultz is joined by Joplin High School Principal Dr. Kerry Sachetta, A-Plus Coordinator Susan Day, and Superintendent Dr. C.J. Huff.
 
Please join me in thanking Mr. Schultz – and all of our teachers – for the vitally important work they do each day. 
 
At Joplin High, Mr. Schultz works hard to make sure kids are prepared to take the next step, and pursue the higher education they need for the careers they want.
 
Many of us have probably had the same conversation with our kids around the dinner table: we tell them that no matter what they’re interested in, the more education they get, the more financially secure they will be.
 
The numbers are stark: the unemployment rate among high school graduates is more than twice that of college graduates. And by the end of this decade, two-thirds of all jobs will require some kind of college credential.
 
Together, we’ve made great strides to make sure that a quality, affordable college education is an option for every family. In fact, over the past five years, Missouri’s public universities have led the nation in holding down tuition increases.  
 
Number one.
 
But we’re not done yet. Working together, we’re going to make sure students graduate from college with the skills to compete for good jobs, not a load of debt.
 
That’s why I have called on our four-year institutions to once again freeze tuition for Missouri undergraduates.
 
That’s right – under my budget, Missouri undergraduates at our public universities should not have to pay a penny more for tuition next year. Not a penny.
 
And no student should have to settle for less education, just because their parents make less money. 
 
So we’re doing something about that. My budget puts additional dollars behind our Access Missouri Scholarship program so that students from low-income families can get the financial aid they need.
 
And we’ll make sure Bright Flight lives up to its original mission of keeping our best and brightest students here in Missouri during college and after they graduate.
 
Finally, I’m proud to report that we’ve taken our A-Plus Schools program statewide, adding 266 schools since 2009 – giving thousands more students the opportunity to earn an A-Plus Scholarship.
 
Today, all across Missouri, students who work hard, play by the rules and give back to their communities can attend two years of community college – tuition free.
 
But affordability is only part of the equation.
 
Once again, core funding for our colleges and universities will be awarded based on performance: on how well our institutions meet specific goals.
 
And in the high-tech global economy, we need to make sure the degrees students pursue match the skills that businesses need.
 
Over the next decade, the jobs that are in highest demand will require at least some background in science, technology, engineering or math – the so-called STEM fields. 
 
We’re talking about software programmers and scientists, mathematicians and machinists, coders and chemists. 
 
The best way to attract more of these high-paying jobs is to make sure our workers have the skills to fill them – and that is exactly what our STEM initiative will do. 
 
With an initial investment of $22 million, this initiative will help our universities purchase state-of-the-art equipment, expand lab space and – most importantly – produce more graduates in these fast-growing fields. 
 
Investing in high-tech education will pack a huge punch for our economy.
 
Education must start early – but it can never stop.
 
With technology constantly advancing, we can’t forget that learning needs to be a lifelong endeavor.
 
Every Missourian willing to work hard and learn something new – no matter what their age or education level – should have the opportunity to take that next step and move up the economic ladder.
 
I thank the legislature for working with us to strengthen our workforce training tools, and give more Missouri workers the opportunity to sharpen their skills, and get better jobs.
 
From preschool to graduate school, in total, my budget includes 493 million additional dollars for education.
 
Our growing economy, combined with our sound budget management, affords us this unique opportunity to invest in our students’ future – our state’s future.
 
It’s our responsibility to do it.
 
But there are those who feel that instead of fully funding our schools, we should pull money out of our classrooms in order to experiment with our tax code.
 
Let’s get something straight: I’ve held the line on taxes every year I’ve been Governor and will do so again this year. 
 
Missouri’s a low-tax state – sixth lowest in the nation – and we like it that way. 
 
I’ve signed four tax cuts as your Governor – specific, targeted tax cuts that have helped our businesses expand and grow. For example, Missouri employers will save $70 million this year alone because we cut the corporate franchise tax. 
 
But here’s what I won’t do: I will not support anything that takes money out of our classrooms.
 
As we saw last summer, in community after community in all corners of our state, parents, teachers, administrators, school board members, business leaders and concerned citizens spoke out with one united voice.
 
The people of Missouri said they expect their elected leaders to support public schools, because they know that education is the best economic development tool there is.
 
High paying jobs, growing businesses, thriving communities – these are goals we share, so let’s invest in the one thing we know will help us achieve them: a workforce that can compete worldwide.
 
This is the year to send a budget to my desk that puts us on track to fully funding our schools, and builds the Missouri our kids deserve.
 
We’ve shown that we can work together to create better opportunities for all Missourians. Just look at what we’re doing – together – to serve Missourians with disabilities and mental illness.
 
In 2010, we passed landmark legislation to require insurance companies to cover the diagnosis and treatment of Autism Spectrum Disorders – and what a difference it’s made for our kids.
 
Today, because of this law, 1.6 million Missourians have coverage for these proven treatments, and more than 2,500 Missourians were treated for autism spectrum disorders last year. 
 
Our Partnership for Hope continues to be a tremendous and life-changing success for thousands of Missourians with developmental disabilities. My budget expands this vital program to even more Missourians, in more communities across the state. 
 
For years, thousands of Missourians with developmental disabilities were forced to wait months – often years – to get the in-home Medicaid services they needed – people like Nate Huffman from St. Peters, who I met when we first launched the Partnership for Hope in 2010. 
 
Back when he was in school, Nate had access to physical therapy and other services that helped him be more independent. He’d even gotten strong enough to walk around his high school track. But when he graduated, those services ended. 
 
For eight years, Nate’s condition and quality of life worsened while he was placed on a waiting list for in-home services. Eight years – it was heart-breaking. But that was before the Partnership for Hope. 
 
Today, Nate is doing much better. His physical therapy is going well and he’s able to communicate through a new computer system. He told me that his goal was to someday be able to walk around that track again – and thanks to the Partnership for Hope, he’s getting closer to reaching that goal each and every day.
 
Because of Missourians like Nate, each year I’ve been in office, we’ve made it a priority to chip away at that waiting list. 
 
And now I’m proud to report, this year that waiting list will no longer exist. 
 
Our friends and neighbors will now get the life-changing services they need, when they need them.
 
On mental illness – as tragedies across the nation exposed dangerous gaps in our country’s mental health safety net – we took action here in Missouri: 
 
We added new mental health liaisons at each of our 29 community mental health centers, so that our law enforcement officers can focus on being cops, not frontline caregivers. 
 
We launched seven targeted emergency room response teams, to ease the burden on our doctors and nurses.
 
And we made a historic investment in Mental Health First Aid training, so that more teachers, clergy, first responders and ordinary citizens can identify the signs of mental illness and know what to do. 
 
Together, we are training more than 1,000 Missourians on these proven, life-saving techniques. And with your help this session, we’ll train thousands more.
 
But as any member of law enforcement can tell you, there are those for whom preventative services are simply not enough. Some mental illnesses are so severe that those suffering from them are a danger to themselves and others.
 
Since 1851, this care has been provided at Fulton State Mental Hospital, Missouri’s only maximum security psychiatric facility – a facility that is crumbling and in desperate need of replacement.
 
It’s inadequate to the needs of patients. It’s dangerous for the staff who care for them. And it’s an embarrassment to our state. 
 
Now is the time to take action. 
 
That’s why I look forward to working with you to address this most urgent of needs and issue bonds to support the construction of a new mental hospital in Fulton.
 
Interest rates are low. Our credit rating is high. And the need is undeniable.  Friends, let’s roll up our sleeves, work together, and for the safety of all our communities, get it done this year.
 
And as we intensify our efforts to make sure that Missourians with mental illness and developmental disabilities get the appropriate care – it’s clear that we need more qualified professionals to provide that care.
 
Just look at the numbers – 104 of Missouri’s 114 counties are designated as mental health professional shortage areas; 72 counties lack even a licensed psychiatrist.
 
These are good jobs that are in demand now – we just need the qualified professionals to fill them. That is why my budget includes a $20 million investment to help our community colleges and universities train 1,200 more mental health professionals.
 
From teaching a child with autism how to interact with peers, to helping law enforcement respond to individuals in  mental health crisis, these health professionals will help keep our communities safe – and make sure all Missourians have the opportunity to live up to their God-given potential.  
 
The priorities I’ve just laid out are by no means the only issues that require our attention this session:
 
We need to restore the public’s faith in what we do here by reinstating strict campaign contribution limits and passing comprehensive ethics reform.
 
We need to rein in the tax credit programs that don’t deliver a solid return on our investment.
 
And we need to end discrimination against LGBT Missourians in the workplace. No Missourian should be fired because of who they are or who they love. Last year, the Missouri Nondiscrimination Act passed the Senate with bipartisan support, but failed to get to my desk. Let’s get it done this year.  
 
We need to fix the law that’s led to so much stress and uncertainty for families and schools, as thousands of students are transported from one district to another.
 
We need to have a robust discussion about our state’s long-term transportation infrastructure needs – and how to pay for them.
 
We need to develop a comprehensive energy plan for our state: one that balances the need for low-cost, reliable energy with our duty to be responsible stewards of the environment.
 
And we need to reauthorize the Missouri Rx program, to prevent more than 200,000 seniors and Missourians with disabilities from paying more for their prescription drugs. Let’s work together, as we did just three years ago, to extend this essential help for Missourians in need.
 
But the most significant improvement we could make to the health and wellbeing of our state is Medicaid, and it needs to get done this year.
 
Since New Year’s Day, Missouri taxpayers have spent $115 million and counting – $5.47 million a day – to improve and reform health care in other states, like Arkansas and Arizona, New Jersey and Iowa, Michigan and North Dakota. This adds up to $2 billion, or $500 for every Missouri taxpayer, every year. 
 
Each day we don’t act, these states use Missourians’ tax dollars to implement innovative reforms, like rewards for making healthier lifestyle choices and penalties for missing doctors’ appointments.
 
Each day we don’t act, Missouri’s Medicaid system continues as it has for years, without additional protections for taxpayers, or new measures to promote personal responsibility.
 
Each day we don’t act, thousands of Missouri women aren’t getting the preventive health care they need to detect breast or cervical cancer early – while there’s still time to treat it.
 
And each day we don’t act, nearly 300,000 working Missourians go another day without the treatment they desperately need, for no other reason than they live in Branson instead of Bentonville, in Cape Girardeau instead of Cairo, in Maryville instead of Muscatine.
 
And if you don’t see these folks knocking on your doors or lighting up your phone lines, it’s because they don’t have time. They’re working to pay the bills and make ends meet.
 
We all know there are problems with Obamacare, and Washington’s implementation of it has been abysmal.
 
But rejecting Medicaid won’t fix any of those things. It won’t keep Missourians from having to pay federal taxes, or exempt our businesses from new requirements under the law.
 
Instead, by standing still, we’re making the things we don’t like about Obamacare even worse, forcing Missourians to bear all the costs of this law – and reap none of the benefits. 
 
Think about that.
 
The people who are suffering now as a result of our failure to act don’t work in the White House – they work the night shift in our factories. They wait tables and scrub floors. They drive snow plows and look after our kids.
 
Right now, hundreds of thousands of these working Missourians can’t afford to get the basic health services they need to lead healthy, productive lives.
 
They’re folks like Anita Sutherland from Van Buren. Anita was a home health care worker who now works part-time at Head Start.
 
Being uninsured has already taken a toll. A year ago, Anita was diagnosed with uterine cancer and had to leave her full time job. Since then, she’s racked up over $100,000 in medical bills, and is suffering from complications of her cancer treatment. Today, buried in a mountain of debt and unable to afford the medical care she needs, Anita doesn’t see a way out. She feels hopeless.
 
But when we strengthen Medicaid, Anita will be covered. She’ll be able to get the treatment she needs and go back to working full time. She’ll have hope.
 
Working Missourians like Anita aren’t looking for a handout. They just want to get a checkup without wiping out their bank account. 
 
I challenge each one of you to think of any other bill that would make this kind of real and immediate difference – the kind of difference Medicaid expansion would make – in the lives of the people we represent.
 
I challenge each of you to consider how history will judge those who had the power to help people like Anita – and chose not to.
 
I challenge each of you to explain why it makes more sense to pay for Medicaid in other states, than it does to reform it in ours.
 
The path before us is clear:
 
We can make sure working folks can access affordable health care coverage.
 
We can improve and reform Medicaid in Missouri.
 
We can help people.
 
As the book of Isaiah says: “If you satisfy…. the needs of the afflicted, then your light shall rise in the darkness and your night will become like the noonday.”
 
At this time last year, the same Medicaid debate was taking place in state capitols across the country.
 
And since that time, we’ve seen Governors and legislators, Democrats and Republicans, in other states, come together to reform their health care systems. But here in Missouri we stood still. And now we’ve fallen behind. 
 
This year, Missouri is paying the cost.
 
This year, Missourians are suffering the consequences.
 
I look forward to working with all of you to bring affordable health coverage to working families in Missouri and reform Medicaid the Missouri way.
 
One year ago, many of us gathered in St. Louis to mourn the loss of an icon – Missouri’s adopted son, Stan Musial.
 
Stan the Man was a member of the Greatest Generation who put his career on hold to serve in World War II – and went on to become the greatest hitter in baseball history.
 
Stan was called baseball’s “perfect warrior” – because while he swung a loud bat, he also carried himself with a quiet dignity – always a gentleman.
 
He was known to say, “Every day you put this jersey on, it’s a privilege.”
 
The same can be said for all of us in this room.
 
Every day when you put that pin on your lapel, and enter these doors to do the people’s business, it’s a privilege.
 
And with that privilege comes responsibility.
 
The people of Missouri count on us to look out for their families as if they were our families.
 
To focus on what matters: Better jobs. Better schools. Better opportunities for their children.
 
And it’s easy to get caught up in the political back and forth of the day. Or the controversy of the hour. Or the latest tweet.
 
But we must be bigger than that, because the work we do here is very, very real.
 
It’s real to the parents in Bolivar who didn’t go to college but save money every week so someday their children can.
 
It’s real to the farmer in Trenton who nearly lost his crop during the drought of 2012, but has come charging back.
 
It’s real to the child with autism in O’Fallon who’s getting the ABA treatment he needs to learn and thrive.
 
And you better believe it’s real to the family in Joplin who lost everything and could have moved away and started anew – but they chose to stay right there to rebuild the town they love.
 
And their state government has been with them every step of the way –because that’s what we do. That’s why we serve.
 
We’re here to make a difference for those who work hard and need a hand – often times for people we’ll never meet.
 
Because the legacy we leave will not be measured by votes on Election Day or back-slaps in these hallways – it will be measured by the lasting impact we have on the communities we serve.
 
The opportunity we’ve been given – to make this kind of difference in the lives of those we represent – is as rare as it is fleeting.
 
Ten years from now, when trucks are still rolling off the line in Claycomo, folks might not remember the Missouri Manufacturing Jobs Act.
 
Twenty years from now, when the mom whose insurance paid for the cancer treatment that saved her life attends her son’s college graduation, she won’t know the names of the lawmakers who voted for Medicaid expansion.
 
And 30 years from now, when the student who was the first in her family to go to college takes the reins of a Fortune 500 company, she probably won’t credit the high quality preschool she attended.
 
But we will. And we’ll know we focused on the right things. We’ll know we made the right choices.
 
That’s our call to action. 
 
That’s the sacred responsibility we hold.
 
In the short time we’ve been given, let’s make it count.
 
Together, let’s build the Missouri our kids deserve.
 
Thank you, and God bless.
 
Published in Local News

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Missouri Lottery has provided a larger-than-usual payment to public education because of stronger-than-usual sales.

The Lottery transferred $29.2 million to a state education fund Friday. That's the third largest monthly transfer in the Lottery's 28-year history.

Lottery officials cited strong Mega Millions sales in December for a $648 million jackpot. The Lottery also set a weekly record for distributed Scratchers tickets in December.

About one-quarter of every dollar of Lottery sales goes to public education programs. Slightly less than two-thirds of the proceeds go toward prizes.

The Missouri Lottery's largest monthly transfer to education was $30.4 million in April 2012, followed by $30.3 million in June 2013. In both instances, there were large jackpots in nationwide lottery games and strong sales for Missouri Scratchers tickets.

Published in Local News
   ST. LOUIS (AP) - In days gone by, a knock on the door by a teacher or school official used to mean a child was in trouble. Not anymore, at least for parents and students at Clay Elementary School.
   The urban public school is one of more than 30 in the St. Louis area that sends teachers on home visits several times a year. Unlike home visit programs that focus on truants and troublemakers, or efforts aimed exclusively at early childhood, the newer wave seeks to narrow the teacher-parent divide while providing glimpses at the factors that shape student learning before and after the school bells ring.
   "I wish they had this when I had children in school," said Elmira Warren, a teacher's aide at Clay who has made home visits to her students and their parents. "I was fearful of what the teachers thought, and of not knowing enough."
   The nonprofit HOME WORKS!  program is modeled after one in Sacramento, Calif. that over the past decade has since spread to more than 300 schools in 13 states, with active programs in Washington, Denver, Seattle and St. Paul, Minn. Program leaders say participation leads to better attendance, higher test scores, greater parental involvement and fewer suspensions and expulsions, citing preliminary research of the newer program by the University of Missouri-St. Louis and a series of external reviews in Sacramento over the past decade. Participation is voluntary, and teachers are paid for their extra time.
   "We've figured out a way for people to sit down outside the regular school and have the most important conversation that needs to happen," said Carrie Rose, executive director of the Parent Teacher Home Visit Project in the California capital.
   The K-12 program began in 1999 as a faith-based community effort but quickly found support not only in the Sacramento school district but also with local teachers unions.  The National Education Association has also endorsed teacher home visits, citing a "critical mass of research evidence" connecting high student achievement with involved parents.
   No longer do parents only here from teachers when there's a problem, or during brief school conferences that leave little time to go beyond the surface.
   "She knows how much the teachers care when she sees them at her home," said Mark Brown, whose 6-year-old daughter Unafay attends Clay Elementary in north St. Louis.
   A decade ago, Clay principal Donna Owens could barely attract 25 parents to meet their children's teachers even once at a school with more than 320 students, with one notable exception:  the Halloween candy giveaway.  A recent HOME WORKS! event at the 191-student school drew close to double that number of parents.
   "Our parents feel much more comfortable coming to the school, and being a part of it," Owens said.
   The Missouri program, which began in St. Louis but now includes several schools 120 miles away in the college town of Columbia, follows a template common to the other efforts. Participating schools must agree to involve at least half of their teachers, and the educators work in pairs to ensure safety.
   Program costs are often covered by foundation grants or borne by nonprofit supporters such as the Flamboyan Foundation, which paid for the program in the District of Columbia.  Rose estimated the program cost at $10,000 annually for elementary schools, and $15,000 to $20,000 for high schools.
   In Missouri, the first teacher visit comes in late summer, with the second session in the fall. While the follow-up session focuses on academics, the initial meeting is all about building a rapport, said Karen Kalish, a St. Louis philanthropist who founded HOME WORKS! in 2006.
   "They go in as listeners and learners the first time," she said. "Just to get (parents) to start talking, to build their relationship."
   Each session is followed by an invitation to continue the conversation at school over a communal meal.  Busy parents who can't find the time or energy for such visits are told the school will also provide childcare and transportation, if needed. Teachers must spend at least 30 minutes on the first visit and 45 minutes the second time, though often those minimums are exceeded.
   "We want to do whatever we can to get them to come to school," Kalish said. "Something happens when parents see their kids' school for the first time."
   Selling overworked teachers on the benefits isn't always easy. At Flynn Park Elementary in the St. Louis suburb of University City, teacher participation is actually down in the program's second year, said kindergarten teacher Debbie Kuster.
   Some are simply too busy outside of school with their own families, she said. Others work second or even third jobs. And some teachers - Kuster included - prefer to keep their professional distance, she said.
   "I'm uncomfortable going to the house," she said. "For certain people, they're more comfortable in their own territory."
   Those who do connect with their students' families away from school describe a more collaborative approach to learning, an environment of mutual respect and appreciation rather than top-down communication.
   "A lot of parents were willing to share with us," Warren said. "They saw we were parents ourselves. They let down their guard."
   Fourth-grade teacher Cynthia Williams said her Clay Elementary Students learned to view her as more than just a two-dimensional authority figure.
   "For some students, school and home are two different worlds," she said. "When you create that bridge, it becomes cohesive."
   Kalish said the program also fosters parental accountability rather than a reliance on schools to essentially serve as surrogate parents for six or seven hours each day.
   While the Missouri program and affiliated efforts nationwide remain relatively small, she hopes to build enough momentum to take the effort statewide, and envisions a broader effort that would elevate teacher home visits alongside such programs as Teach for America or Parents as Teachers, which focuses on increasing child-rearing skills through home visits for newborns and toddlers.
   "We've got the secret sauce," Kalish said. "We know what works."
   ---
   Online:  HOME WORKS!, www.teacherhomevisit.org
   Parent Teacher Home Visit Project, www.pthvp.org
   ---
 
Published in Local News

   AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — The Texas Board of Education used a late-night meeting to preliminarily approve new science textbooks for classrooms across the state Thursday, but it blocked signing off on a major new biology text until alleged "errors" in lessons over the theory of evolution are checked by outside experts.

   The vote just before midnight did not reject the biology book by Pearson, one of the country's largest publishers. But it delayed approval until three board members appoint a trio of outside experts to check concerns.

   Textbook and classroom curriculum battles have long raged in Texas pitting creationists — those who see God's hand in the creation of the universe — against academics who worry about religious and political ideology trumping scientific fact. At issue this time are proposed high school biology books that could be used across the state at least through 2022.

   State law approved two years ago means school districts can now choose their own books and don't have to adhere to a list recommended by the Board of Education — but most have continued to use approved books.

   The issue is important nationally since Texas is so large that many books prepared for publication in the state also are marketed elsewhere around the country.

   Publishers from around the country submitted proposed textbooks this summer, but committees of Texas volunteer reviewers — some nominated by socially conservative current and former Board of Education members — raised objections. One argued that creationism based on biblical texts should be taught in science classes, while others objected that climate change wasn't as settled a scientific matter as some of the proposed books said.

   Pearson and many other major publishers weren't willing to make suggested major edits and changes, however.

   That promoted some of the board's socially conservative members to call for delaying approval of the book because of concerns including how long it took Earth to cool and objection to lessons about natural selection because "selection operates as a selective but not a creative force."

   Members outside the socially conservative bloc claimed their colleagues waited until the dead of night to try and impose ideological edits.

   "To ask me — a business degree major from Texas Tech University — to distinguish whether the Earth cooled 4 billion years ago or 4.2 billion years ago for purposes of approving a textbook at 10:15 on a Thursday night is laughable," said Thomas Ratliff, a Republican from Mount Pleasant.

   He added: "I believe this process is being hijacked, this book is being held hostage to make political changes."

Published in National News
Friday, 15 November 2013 03:51

Scabies outbreak reported in De Soto schools

   Parents in the De Soto School District are being warned about an outbreak of scabies.  

   District 73 officials sent a letter home with students Thursday notifying parents that one high school student, a junior high student, and an elementary student have been sent home with the skin condition.  

   Scabies is caused by tiny mites burrowing beneath the skin.  It's extremely itchy and highly contagious.  

   District officials say they are taking steps to disinfect schools.

   Students with scabies can't return to school without a doctor's note.

   De Soto is about 50 miles south of St. Louis in Jefferson County.

 
Published in Local News
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