Leadership Missouri: Education in still-recovering Joplin

By Dr. Angie Besendorfer

Dr. Besendorfer is the chancellor of WGU Missouri and a member of the Leadership Missouri class of 2014.

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The Leadership Missouri Class of 2014 traveled to the southwest corner of the state to learn about education and get a glimpse into the recovery of Joplin. The time went fast with so much to see and learn. As I pen this, I feel I must include an up front disclaimer that as the previous assistant superintendent for Joplin Schools and a current member of the Leadership Missouri class of 2014, I may have a bias in how I feel about the recovery results.

As most of you will remember, on May 22, 2011 the Joplin community was devastated by an EF-5 tornado that left one-third of the town in rubble. Three years later, Joplin is a community that has faced unimaginable challenges and is an example for others in many ways.

As part of its education focus for the week, the group examined the impact of goal setting by the Joplin Schools and its determination to put students first. Leadership Missouri class members toured five schools that have been rebuilt since the tornado. We toured Irving Elementary, Soaring Heights Elementary, East Middle School, Joplin High School and Franklin Technology Center.

All five new schools incorporated certain features, such as dramatic use of color to create inspiring spaces for learning —a stark contrast from the old beige and white walls of schools of the past. Another innovative feature was the absence of traditional hallways, which had been transformed into wider, more usable learning spaces where students could gather or work in groups. The furniture was different, too. A variety of types of furniture were employed to serve different learning purposes, including soft seating, tables of varying heights and shapes, individual desks, and stools that provided students opportunity for movement.

Technology was a game changer in Joplin Schools. Projectors are in every classroom and even in hallway spaces where students can gather on the “learning stairs.” Additionally, at the middle school all 8th graders were provided iPads while every high school student was given a MacBook. The high school instituted a textbook-free setting (not even digital versions) in order to provide higher level thinking through project-based learning strategies.

The spaces were designed to place learning as the most important characteristic. An example is the concept of “learning on display” throughout all the buildings with many windows. Daylight in the classrooms and hallways was one use of windows, but equally important were windows into the classrooms from the hallways so that everyone can see the learning happening in the classrooms. This was even more important in the technical school where students can peer into career classrooms to see what they might be doing in various jobs.

The high school structure empowered students to take charge of their learning and make it beneficial to their future. AP and dual credit courses have been expanded, creating the opportunity for students to graduate from high school with an associate degree. Students have choices for blended learning (part online and part face-to-face) classes and even internships in the future. A career path focus has resulted in classes that focus on successful transition from high school to the next steps for students’ career. The Joplin team referred to the model as a “next generation high school.” You can learn more by visiting http://joplinschools.org/Page/1544.

The Leadership group also learned about the challenges of educating students living in poverty, by examining the work of Ruby Payne. Additional concepts were shared that would help any parent, including referencing learning from the book Mindset by Carol Dweck. Different types of poverty were discussed, as well as statistics on the impact of students in poverty, access to preschool and the growing number of impoverished people in our state. Participants were given information about the Bright Futures model, described at http://www.brightfuturesusa.org, which is designed to responds to student needs.

While in Joplin, we were provided a partial tour of the tornado path where we observed areas of wonderful rebuilding and other areas where empty lots told the story of devastation. About 90% of Joplin businesses are back. The schools reported on strategies they employed right after the storm which have helped retain student enrollment, including hosting an extended summer school with added transportation right after the storm and creating temporary educational settings for 3200 students. The high school and technical school had just opened a couple of weeks before our tour, and it was evident that everyone, students included, was glad that they were “home” again.

During the tour, there was an opportunity to stop and take a class picture at one of the new murals in Joplin. This one included half a corvette and celebrated the historic Route 66. A fact that was shocking to many of us was how many European travelers come to the US to tour Route 66. We also drove by the “butterfly mural” that was created in response to a story of blessing and protection recounted in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

We also visited the area referred to as “ground zero” for the tornado where all the media trucks lined up so many days after the storm. This had been the location of Mercy Hospital, before it was demolished in the storm. The site is now cleaned up and grass is growing on a hill that is the future site of a memorial chapel, placed at the exact same spot as the chapel from the original hospital. On the tour, participants learned about the three versions of hospitals Mercy has had after the storm, and got a glimpse into the new hospital site that will open in March 2015.

The Joplin tornado touched many people very personally including three class members who had duties through their jobs to help in the immediate aftermath. This includes myself, Malik Henderson with the Missouri Highway Patrol, and Wynn Morgan with Missouri American Water. We saw surveillance footage of the tornado hitting the schools, and tips for safety in a tornado situation were shared

This Leadership Missouri experience celebrated the recovery of Joplin and the amazing strides that have been made by this community. During this trip there were many moments of sobering facts including the 161 lives lost including 7 students and 1 staff member from Joplin Schools. But in addition, we heard many times how the people of Joplin appreciate all the help from everyone around the world and how they couldn’t be where they are today without it.

NEWS RELEASE: Missouri Chamber will support bipartisan plan to cut business fees to lowest in the nation

JEFFERSON CITY — The Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the state’s largest business advocacy group, will work with Secretary of State Jason Kander and Sen. Wayne Wallingford to pass legislation to cut state fees paid by Missouri businesses to the overall lowest in the nation.

Sen. Wallingford, a Republican from Cape Girardeau, plans to file legislation to reduce or eliminate numerous fees that new and existing businesses must pay. Secretary of State Kander is a Democrat and oversees the arm of Missouri government responsible for processing state business fees and licenses and has worked with Wallingford to craft the proposal.

“Anything we can do to lower the barriers of entry for Missouri entrepreneurs welcomes these opportunities to our state,” said Dan Mehan, Missouri Chamber president and CEO. “This is also about Missouri’s business image. We are sending an extremely strong message to existing employers and businesses that are looking to move or expand operations in our state: Missouri is doing what we can to lower your business costs and help your business grow.”

The Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry (www.mochamber.com) was founded in 1923 and is the largest business organization in Missouri, representing almost 3,000 employers, providing more than 425,000 jobs for Missourians.

 

Missouri Civics Education Initiative Unveiled to Promote Active and Engaged Citizenship

State Legislative Effort Supported By Former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, Pulitzer Prize-Winning Journalist

Carl Bernstein & Nine State Co-Chairs including former Missouri Governor Bob Holden

 

Jefferson City – Honoring the anniversary of United States Constitution, signed on this date in 1787, former Missouri Governor Bob Holden; Dan Mehan, President & CEO of the Missouri Chamber of Commerce & Industry; former State Senator Glen Klippenstein and former state representatives Mike Talboy and Shane Schoeller today announced the Missouri Civics Education Initiative. This state legislative effort aims to ensure all Missouri high school graduates have a basic understanding of United States civics and history.

According to the Pew Research Center, only about one-third of Americans can name the three branches of the United States government, much less say what each does. Further, studies of high school students in Oklahoma and Arizona showed less than a four percent passage rate on the Unites States Citizenship Civics test – the test all immigrants applying for U.S. citizenship must pass. According to United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), which administers the civics test as part of the naturalization process, 92 percent of immigrants who take the test pass it on their first try.

“Studies show too few citizens understand basic American civics and who we are as a nation,” said former Governor Bob Holden. “When citizens don’t understand how our government works, they’re not likely to vote or take part in policy decisions facing our state and nation – a critical problem that must be addressed with a sense of urgency.”

The Missouri Civics Education Initiative will promote an active and engaged citizenry by requiring all Missouri high school students and those seeking general educational development (GED) equivalency pass the 100-question civics test administered by USCIS. The state legislation will allow students to take the test any time during their high school career, and to take the test as many times as necessary to pass.

By using the well-established USCIS test, there will be no need or expense to create a new test or study materials, as these materials are already available online and for free. The legislation will allow individual schools to administer the test in a way the school as deems adequate to meet the requirements.

“The Civics Education Initiative is a fundamental first step toward ensuring all Missouri students understand the basic foundations of our government,” Dan Mehan, with the Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry said. “Its simple in concept and it ensures that our high school graduates have the basic knowledge necessary for active, engaged citizenship.”

The USCIS Citizenship Civics test consists of 100 basic questions about American civics and history, such as:

  • What is the name of the President of the United States now?
  • Name one branch or part of the government.
  • What is the capital of your state?
  • What major event happened on September 11, 2001, in the United States?

According to USCIS, which administers the civics test as part of the naturalization process, 92 percent of immigrants who take it pass on their first try. Yet studies of high school students in Oklahoma and Arizona showed less than four percent passage rate on the Unites States Citizenship Civics test.

To date the Initiative has seen broad support across the state. Co-Chairs of the Missouri Civics Education Initiative include:

  • Former Missouri Governor Bob Holden
  • Glen Klippenstein, Former State Senator and Representative from Northwest Missouri
  • Mike Talboy, Former State Representative & Minority Floor Leader, current Director of Government Affairs with Burns & McDonnell
  • Shane Schoeller, Former State Representative & Speaker Pro Tem, current candidate for Greene County Clerk
  • Tony Feather, GOP Activist and political consultant
  • Maxine Clark, Founder of Build-A-Bear and education activist
  • Kelly Gillespie, Executive Director of Missouri Biotechnology Association
  • Eric Greitens, CEO of The Greitens Group, former Navy SEAL, award winning author `
  • Dan Mehan, President & CEO of the Missouri Chamber of Commerce & Industry

Six other states today are announcing similar state legislative efforts including Arizona, Louisiana, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota and Utah.

The Initiative’s national board of directors includes former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Carl Bernstein, and actor Joe Mantegna who has been nominated for both Golden Globe and Emmy awards. (National Board Video Message)

The Civics Education Initiative is an affiliate of the Joe Foss Institute, which was founded to educate American youth on the importance of our country’s unique freedoms, and to inspire them to public service. Joe Foss was a Congressional Medal of Honor recipient, former governor of South Dakota, and first commissioner of the American Football League..

The Civics Education Initiative is a program of the Civics Proficiency Institute a 501(C)(4) organization affiliated with the Joe Foss Institute, a 501(C)(3) non-profit.

Copyright © The Civics Proficiency Institute, All rights reserved

 

Missouri Chamber applauds 100 Great Ideas for Missouri initiative

JEFFERSON CITY — Speaker-elect John Diehl has launched an initiative to gather ideas from Missourians to improve our state and government. Diehl has launched a website where constituents can post ideas. The website will be complemented with a statewide legislative tour to communities across the state.

“The Missouri Chamber believes the 100 Great Ideas for Missouri initiative is a great way to engage House members with the needs of Missourians,” said Missouri Chamber President and CEO Daniel P. Mehan. “Then best ideas for moving our state forward are not created in the offices of the Capitol, but are born in our communities. Making it easier to deliver these ideas to legislative leaders is a worthwhile effort. We will encourage our employer members to submit ideas.”

Citizens can visit the campaign’s website, 100GreatIdeasForMissouri.org, to submit their ideas. The initiative also uses Twitter (@100GreatIdeasMO) and Facebook to receive feedback.

The Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry (www.mochamber.com) was founded in 1923 and is the largest business organization in Missouri, representing almost 3,000 employers, providing more than 425,000 jobs for Missourians.
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Supreme Court takes another bite out of Missouri tort reforms

With a new ruling that bypasses Missouri’s limit on punitive damages, the state’s Supreme Court continues to erode a successful 2005 reform law.

In their decision, released on Sept. 9, the Supreme Court reinstated a $1 million judgment against a used car dealer who defrauded a customer. The court’s ruling uses centuries’ old legal language to sidestep the clear, current 2005 statute limiting punitive damages at $500,000.

The decision comes two years after the Supreme Court similarly overturned Missouri’s 2005 cap on medical malpractice lawsuits.

“Less than 10 years ago, our state was a haven for frivolous lawsuits, outrageous judgments and skyrocketing litigation insurance premiums. In 2005, we fixed it. Lawsuits declined dramatically and premiums decreased. With this ruling, we’re seeing a trend where the Missouri Supreme Court is working to undo our progress and open the flood gates once again,” said Daniel P. Mehan, Missouri Chamber President and CEO. “If we want Missouri to compete in a global economy, we can’t have a rampant litigation climate and we can’t have a judicial system that bypasses current reforms in favor of language that was written before the State of Missouri even existed. This continues to be an urgent matter that our state must address.”

This Supreme Court decision is Lewellen v. Chad Franklin, National Auto Sales. The 2012 ruling against liability lawsuit caps came in the case of Watts v. Cox Medical Centers.

The Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry (www.mochamber.com) was founded in 1923 and is the largest business organization in Missouri, representing almost 3,000 employers, providing more than 425,000 jobs for Missourians.

NEWS RELEASE: Training funds and tax fairness legislation returned to Missouri employers

The Missouri General Assembly has voted to protect Missouri employers, returning vital training funds and protections for employers in tax court.

Lawmakers voted to override Gov. Nixon’s veto of more than 50 line items in the state budget, including $900,000 to the Missouri Works job-training program.  Missouri Works provides customized training resources and assistance to existing businesses and start-ups through a partnership with Missouri Community Colleges and other local educational agencies.

The Missouri Chamber strongly supported returning these funds to our employers,” said Missouri Chamber President and CEO Daniel P. Mehan.  “These are proven programs and vitally important to the employers that depend upon this training.”

The General Assembly also overwhelmingly supported the veto override of Senate Bill 829, legislation ending an unfair bias against many of the state’s employers.  Senate Bill 829 is sponsored by Sen. Will Krause, a Republican from Lee’s Summit. The bill was handled in the House by Rep. Denny Hoskins, a Republican from Warrensburg.

The bill would ensure that all taxpayers are presumed innocent when the Missouri Department of Revenue chooses to bring them to court in a tax dispute. Under current state law, companies with more than 500 employees and a net worth of greater than $7 million are actually presumed guilty in the state’s tax courts. All other taxpayers are presumed innocent in tax disputes.

“This bill addresses that basic issue of fairness. Current law holds that certain employers are guilty until proven innocent.  That’s just not right,” said Daniel P. Mehan, Missouri Chamber president and CEO.  “Why should we treat one class of taxpayer differently from the rest?”

Securing this legislation has been a priority of the Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry for more than a decade.  Prior to 1999, all employers were considered guilty until proven innocent in tax court.

“The Missouri Chamber has pushed to incrementally change this provision year after year and this veto override marks the final step in that process.  The job is finally finished!” Mehan said.

In addition to the change in income tax disputes, SB 829 also requires the revenue department to prove its case in all sales tax exemption disputes.  This provision will be a benefit to both small and large employers.

The Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry (www.mochamber.com) was founded in 1923 and is the largest business organization in Missouri, representing almost 3,000 employers, providing more than 425,000 jobs for Missourians.

Let’s get to business: Veto session should focus on job growth

The Missouri legislature is set to return this week to consider overriding a number of Gov. Jay Nixon’s vetoes.

Following the regular legislative session, which ended in May, Gov. Jay Nixon vetoed 33 bills—just two vetoes shy of the all-time high for vetoes by a Missouri governor. Among the bills vetoed by Nixon were several important business proposals that had been supported by the Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry and endorsed by both the Missouri House of Representatives and the Missouri Senate.

“As we seek to get Missouri on a path toward greater growth, the Missouri Chamber and our state’s business community felt we had made significant progress this year—only to have our work derailed by the governor’s vetoes,” said Daniel P. Mehan, Missouri Chamber President and CEO. “With the General Assembly reconvening this week, we have a chance to finish the job and make 2014 a year when growth and employment were the top priorities in Jefferson City.”

The Missouri Chamber will be working hard in the capital this week to secure veto overrides for a number of pro-business laws, including:

  • Tax court fairness: There is an unfair double standard in Missouri tax courts: Some business taxpayers are innocent until proven guilty, others are guilty until proven innocent. The General Assembly passed House Bill 1455, sponsored by Rep. Denny Hoskins, a Republican from Warrensburg, and Senate Bill 829 sponsored by Sen. Will Kraus, a Republican from Lee’s Summit, to finally bring equality to our tax court system—giving every tax defendant the right to arrive in court as innocent until proven guilty. The governor vetoed this change.
  • Giving businesses a heads up: The Missouri Department of Revenue currently has the power to change tax rules, not notify businesses of the change and then issue harsh penalties when businesses don’t conform to the new rules. Senate Bill 662, sponsored by Sen. Kraus, would require the Department of Revenue to notify businesses when they make a change in their interpretation of the state’s sales tax laws.  In addition, the bill would clarify corporate apportionment legislation passed last year to ensure all companies can utilize this new statute whether they manufacture products or sell services or intangibles. The governor vetoed this proposal, which can also be found in House Bill 1296, sponsored by Rep. Andrew Koenig, a Republican from Manchester.
  • Unemployment insurance reforms: The recent economic recession left Missouri’s employers with a massive unemployment debt to repay. Unemployment insurance reforms passed by the House and Senate this year were intended to help ensure future economic downturns are less costly. Senate Bill 673, sponsored by Sen. Mike Kehoe, a Republican from Jefferson City, ties the number of weeks Missourians can receive unemployment benefits to the state’s unemployment rate. This was vetoed by the governor.
  • Investing in our workforce: Governor Nixon also used his veto pen to axe funding from several critical programs aimed at growing new businesses and helping Missouri workers retrain for new jobs. The governor’s vetoes eliminated a funding increase for the Missouri Works Job Development Fund, cut all funding for the Small Business Regulatory Fairness Board, eliminated funding for the state’s Small Business & Technology Development Centers and would close seven tax assistance satellite offices across Missouri. The Missouri Chamber is asking that the funding approved by the General Assembly be restored.

As the veto session opens, the Missouri Chamber calls for business leaders and all Missourians to contact their local representative and senator and ask them to focus on business issues during the 2014 veto session.

“With all the divisive issues that are on the table, it’s always a fear common sense job growth ideas could be overshadowed by politics and grandstanding during a short veto session,” said Mehan. “We need the business community to help us encourage the General Assembly to use this time to help push our state forward, grow jobs and increase our standing in an increasingly competitive global economy.”

For more information, contact Tracy King, Missouri Chamber vice president of governmental affairs, at tking@mochamber.com, or by phone at 573-634-3511.