The Intersection

Over Two-Dozen Missouri Legislators Convene to Drive Education Solutions for Missouri’s Students

December 18, 2019

After a successful inaugural Missouri Legislators Retreat in January of 2019, The Hunt Institute was eager to bring Missouri state legislators back together to continue the conversation of elevating education in Missouri. The two-day retreat returned to Lincoln University in Jefferson City on November 12-13, 2019 to connect Missouri legislators with education leaders and experts from Missouri and around the country to examine the issues facing the state’s education system and how to drive needed change within the system. Legislators at the Retreat engaged in challenging yet deeply necessary dialogue regarding Missouri’s public education system. Twenty-seven committed and highly engaged legislators from both chambers and parties participated in this year’s Retreat.

Secretary Jay Ashcroft provides closing remarks to legislators on November 13.

Secretary of State Jay Ashcroft, who participated in the fourth cohort of the Hunt-Kean Leadership Fellows program, spearheaded the effort to develop the Missouri Legislators’ Retreat. After completing the fellowship, Secretary Ashcroft saw the need for a program that helped Missouri legislators make informed decisions that ensure that “every Missourian has that opportunity to get an education, to better themselves and be the best that they can be.”

The four Retreat co-chairs, Secretary Jay Ashcroft, Lieutenant Governor Mike Kehoe, Senator Gary Romine (District 3), and Representative Kathryn Swan (District 147), collaborated with The Hunt Institute to create an agenda that would cover important topics that can help elevate education in Missouri. An issue brief was provided to legislators prior the Retreat with background information and context for the planned session topics.

Missouri Legislators Retreat Co-Chairs (from L to R): Lieutenant Governor Mike Kehoe, Representative Kathryn Swan, Secretary Jay Ashcroft, and Senator Gary Romine

The Retreat kicked off with remarks from The Hunt Institute’s President & CEO, Dr. Javaid Siddiqi, who explained the values and key focus issues that The Institute centers itself around. Following were welcome remarks from Lincoln University Chief of Staff to the President Carlos Graham, Senator Romine, and Representative Swan. These words of welcome helped establish the grounds for the discussions to come revolving around improving education and workforce outcomes to support Missouri’s future. Co-chairs highlighted the importance of having honest, bipartisan discussions that focus primarily on what is best for students.

Education leaders and experts, both local and national, joined the legislators to share their insights and expertise. These conversations were conducted through panel discussions over the two days, which included significant opportunity for legislators to ask questions of the resource experts. Session topics included the importance of advancing early education, innovative approaches for equitable school discipline, innovative and flexible school designs that hold schools accountable for student performance, teacher recruitment and retention in difficult-to-staff schools, course access in rural schools, career and technical education frameworks, and school funding.

From left to right: Dr. Julie Leeth of the Community Foundation of the Ozarks, Dr. Tequilla Brownie of TNTP, and Dr. Charles Pearson of Normandy Schools Collaborative discuss legislative levers that can encourage high-quality teacher recruitment and retention.

Legislators had a chance to have small group discussions with Missouri school leaders to hear and understand what exact problems schools in the public education system are facing. These conversations focused on recruiting and retaining top talent in urban and rural schools. Legislators were particularly interested in hearing about methods of ensuring that teacher candidates are effectively prepared during their degree programs to be high-quality teachers for Missouri’s students. Grow-your-own programs are one example of strategies that places such as the Community Foundation of the Ozarks are using to immerse candidates in the classroom sooner.

Participants were also fortunate enough to hear from Lieutenant Governor Mike Kehoe on the morning of the second day of the Retreat. Lieutenant Governor Kehoe’s welcome remarks thanked legislators for their willingness to engage in conversations that will have significant impact on Missouri’s students.

Also on the second day, legislators had the opportunity to hear more about takeaways from this spring’s Commissioner’s Education Policy Committee. Dr. Margie Vandeven, Missouri Commissioner of Education, and former Senator David Pearce, who served at the Committee chair, discussed the efforts of the Commissioner’s Committee to identify recommendations and priorities for the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education moving forward. This session allowed Commissioner Vandeven and legislators to identify ways that legislators can help to push this work forward and improve outcomes for Missouri’s students.

The Hunt Institute’s Director of Policy & Research, Patrick Sims, Missouri Commissioner of Education Dr. Margie Vandeven, and former Senator David Pearce outline to legislators the findings from the Commissioner’s Education Policy Committee.

After the second Legislators Retreat, legislators were provided with Key Takeaways that included action items and further resources to inform their work going forward. The Hunt Institute is dedicated to providing legislators and policymakers in Missouri with the tools and information needed to make informed, evidence-based decisions that will improve education and workforce outcomes in Missouri. As one legislator in attendance noted, legislators are tasked with making so many important decisions, and it is crucially important to allow policymakers to have regular open and honest discussions like the ones had at the Retreat.

To read more, please find The Jefferson City News Tribune article written about the Retreat here. To learn more about the information shared at the Retreat, please visit the Missouri Legislators Retreat Page.


Julia Cunningham
Policy Analyst

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