Committee assignments were made and I was again named Workforce Chairman. I also am Chair of the Joint Committee on Child Abuse and Neglect and sit on the Transportation Committee, the Casualty Insurance Committee, and a new one called Emerging Issues. I'm figuring that committee is where we will be hearing all the proposals for solutions to the Ferguson problem. As a kid 50 years ago I lived within a few miles of St.Louis. It was a tremendously different place then as were all big cities. Even then change was on the way. Business and industry was on the move from urban areas to more rural locations. Big strip malls were replacing busy downtown areas and housing developments were springing up on the outskirts of towns. To serve the new population sprawl, schools were built in the rural areas and many of the inner city facilities started their downhill slide. A veritable army of dedicated, hardworking teachers and staff have done everything in their power to provide the best possible education for their students over the years, but sadly, they can't win the battle without some fundamental changes. We've increased the spending per student to over three times what we spend in Southwest Missouri and the test scores continue to fall. Our Education Interim Committees have worked all year on some proposals to help the problem but I'm hoping our new committee addresses some of the underlying problems. The disintegration of the family unit certainly can't be solved overnight but it is, without a doubt, one of the main factors.
It was a good week for my Joint Committee. I met with the Directors of Missouri Kids First, the Child Advocates Office, the Children's Trust Fund and the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. My purpose for the meetings was to gain input from them on possible solutions to the problems we've identified within the Division of Children's Service. Our first concern is that we want to make sure any changes we make don't have unintended consequences that make problems elsewhere. First and foremost, we want to provide every possible protection against abuse and neglect of our children. Last summer, we were the first counties in the State to get the new Stewards of Children training on Child Sexual Abuse. Our County Coalition and the East Newton teachers have all had the training and I can't say enough about how great it is. I made the statement to the Director of Kids First that I wanted every teacher in the state to have the same opportunity. The best way for that to happen is for the Legislature to become aware of it. Senate Pro Tem Tom Dempsey and I are sponsoring training at the Capitol for Legislators and staff on January 28. If the attendees are as moved as I was by this presentation, we will find a way to get it to our teachers!
This week we will start the bill process by having committee hearings. The Speaker has introduced a new method to move the bills more quickly and better yet, to make sure they are properly drafted. The idea is to pass bills that are Constitutionally sound and don't require a "fix" next year before they can become law. If it saves time and effort and better serves the people of Missouri, I'm all for it. More next week, until then I am and remain in your service.