JEFFERSON CITY — The Missouri House rejected tougher evaluation standards for school principals and administrators early Thursday morning despite it being one of the top education priorities of the Republican House speaker.
The 82-76 defeat marks the second time the Republican-controlled House has rebuked Speaker Tim Jones, R-Eureka, and his efforts to evaluate education officials based largely on student achievement.
The measure would only have imposed the new evaluation metrics on principals and administrators. A previous version that included teachers in the new performance criteria was defeated last month by the House 102-55 with a majority of Republicans opposing the measure.
Although the Republicans have a two-thirds majority in the state House, many of Jones' colleagues again joined with most of the House Democrats on Thursday to vote down the bill.
Former school superintendent Rep. Lyle Rowland, R-Cedarcreek, voted against the bill and said he was worried about its financial impact on rural school districts. Other Republicans objected because they said it took power from locally elected school boards to evaluate their own personnel.
Some urban and suburban Democrats supported the measure and argued the legislature needed to act now to help the struggling urban school districts.
"We have done nothing significant about our education system. What I have heard is, 'No we can't do that, no we can't accept that,'" said Rep. Steve Webb, D-St. Louis.
Currently, the Kansas City school district is unaccredited and St. Louis Public Schools just recently obtained provisionally accredited status. The bill defeated Thursday also included a provision that would have allowed the state to immediately takeover the Kansas City schools. Current law requires state education officials to wait until June 30, 2014, before intervening.
The measure called for evaluations to begin in the 2014-15 academic year. Principals and administrators would have been classified on an annual basis on a four-part scale ranging from highly effective to ineffective.
At least 33 percent of evaluations for administrators would have focused on student achievement and growth. The Missouri State Board of Education this past year approved a pilot project dealing with evaluations, and the state's waiver for the federal No Child Left Behind Act will require districts to have an evaluation process in place within several years.
Even getting to a vote on the education evaluation bill was a tough task. There was controversy two weeks ago when Jones removed two Republican lawmakers from the House Fiscal Review Committee for teaming with Democratic members to block the bill from the House floor. He said the lawmakers had policy objections to the teacher evaluation legislation not cost concerns, which ran counter to the panel's purpose. The bill advanced from the committee on another vote.