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Missouri Government News for Week of Oct. 9

This week's news summary was prepared by Candyce L. Clifft from reports prepared during the week by staff of Missouri Digital News.

State Education Officials Not Excited about Congressional Plan

If the Department of Education Elimination Act passes in Congress, states will receive block grants to fund education. Missouri education administrators are afraid of the negative effect it will have on education.

Steven Barr, coordinator of federal programs for the Missouri Education Department, said state control would mean a loss of education's only voice in Washington. Even worse, he said, block grants could mean less money for education overall.

Sen. Kit Bond's spokesperson said Bond supports block grants becuase states can better serve their citizens than the federal government. Assistant state education commissioner, Russell McCampbell, agreed and said the bill's passage will bring the services closer to the people who fund them.

However, Barr said without federal spending guidelines, states would mismanage the funds. If money isn't used effieiently, he said, eventually taxpayers won't feel comfortable spending money on education, fearing it would only be wasted.

Education Standards Approved by Govorner's Commission

The "Show Me Standards" of education are one step closer to being applied to the cirriculum of all Missouri public schools. The proposal was accepted Oct. 10 by Gov. Mel Carnahan's Commission on Performance. The next step is approval by the Missouri Board of Education.

Sen. Steve Ehlmann, R-St. Charles, challenged the standards. He said since the standards did not outline testing standards, the curriculum could not uniform. Some commission members said Ehlmann's concerns should cause the plan to be rejected.

Missouri school teacher Betty Preston said the plan still lacked guidelines for how to grade students. She said the plan should not be considered complete until grading standards are included.

Rep. Annette Morgan, D-Kansas City, recommended approval of the plan. She said that even though the standards have not been fully established, the proposed plan is a good starting point.

In addition to providing guidelines in each school subject area, the Show-Me Standards have four main goals. Students should be able to:

Doug Allen, a social studies teacher from Independence, said he already uses the new standards, and they have revitalized his methods of teaching.

Lesbian Rights Before State Supreme Court

The Missuri Supreme Court is deciding whether to hear a case on the rights of lesbian moms. The case involves the children of a St. Louis man and his former wife--who he claims is a lesbian.

John Pleban, the husband's lawyer, said the former wife's behavior is having a negative effect on the children. One child reportedly told his classmates that his mother sleeps with another woman.

The former wife denied having a lesbian relationship. Her attorney, Lawrence Gillespie, said the case should be dropped on grounds that it was filed too soon.

Elderly and Relatives Protest Nursing Home Industry

Nursing home workers and relatives of nursing home patients and about 20 elderly people protested against the nursing home industry outside the state capitol in Jefferson City. They were protesting the industry's refusal to release information about the quality of their care.

A new Missouri law requires nursing homes to release this information, but several nursing homes in Missouri, including one in St. Louis, have refused to obey the law. In a prepared statement, one of the larger nursing home operations in the state offered to release quality-assurance reports. However, the reports would only be available by mail and would not include personal identificaitons.

Health Department Attempts to Save AIDS Funds

The Missouri Health Department made plans to shift funds from other department areas in an attempt to save the Ryan White AIDS fund. Director Coleen Kivlahan said providers for Hiv and AIDS patients will start receiving funds soon.

Kivlahan said some of the money will come from Medicaid reimbursements and a freeze on departmental hiring and travelling. She said she is optomistic about the progress the department is making in securing funds, but there will never be enough money to fulfill all patients' needs.

Kivlahan said proposed block grants and significant cuts will make distributing services even more difficult in the future.

Renz Prison Land Draws $1.4 Million

The state raised $400 thousand more than it expected in the sale of the Renz prison land, damaged in the 1993 flood.

Some mid-Missouri farmers purchased the 898 acres for $1.4 million. After the 1993 flood, the Department of Corrections estimated the land would be too costly to repair. However, 87 percent of the land is good for farming, and its location along Highway 63 made it commercially valuable. To prevent future flooding, the government has agreed to build a levy.

The Renz prison is being replaced by a new prison in Vandalia, Mo., which is expected to be complete by late 1998.