JEFFERSON CITY - As he had throughout his campaign, Gov. Bob Holden made education the focus of his State of the State address to a joint session of Missouri's legislature Tuesday.
His package of proposals included pay raises for teachers who gain national certification, courses in teaching character and public report cards on school performance.
"The cornerstones of my plan to improve education include: adequate resources, quality teachers, parental involvement, accountability, technology and a safe environment where students are ready to learn," Holden said to the standing room-only audience that filled the chamber of the House of Representatives.
Holden stated that his top priority this year will be to fully fund the school foundation formula.
This formula distributes state money to the more than 540 school districts in Missouri in a way that will equalize the money behind each students' education, said the chair of the House Education-Elementary and Secondary committee, Rep. Richard Franklin, D-Independence.
The way this formula works is to allot more money to poorer school districts that do not have the tax base to support their schools and less to schools in more wealthier districts that have a stronger tax base to draw from in an effort to equalize education funding.
The fiscal year 2002 budget included $78 million, a four percent increase, to fully fund this formula. This will be the sixth year in a row that the formula will be fully funded.
In an effort to help teachers strengthen their skills, Holden recommended the creation of a $5,000 annual salary supplement for any Missouri teacher who becomes a National Board Certified teacher, and a ten percent salary increase for nationally certified teachers who mentor other teachers seeking such status. These supplements and salary increases would come from state general revenue.
To receive certification, teachers would participate in more than 200 hours of after school work including a one-year evaluation and examination period where they would have to demonstrate a mastery of advanced national standards in their subject area.
The state currently has 44 nationally certified teachers, but Holden said he wants 1,000 certified teachers over the next four years.
While most legislators agree that education reform is needed, not all believe that certifying teachers is the answer.
"I generally take a dim view of it," said Senate President Pro Tem, Peter Kinder, R-Cape Girardeau.
"National teacher certification won't relieve our current teacher shortage," Kinder said. "We should focus on recruiting, state certification and retaining the best teachers."
Kinder also stated that this certification program would only tell us who the good teachers already are, while making them jump through the 200 hour certification hoop.