2 Mo. House GOP lawmakers ousted from education panel

By JORDAN SHAPIRO

Associated Press

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Republican Missouri House speaker dismissed two former Republican teachers from an education panel the same day he removed two other Republicans for opposing a measure that would impose stricter evaluations for teachers, one of his top education priorities.

Speaker Tim Jones removed Reps. Mike Thomson and Elaine Gannon Thursday from the House Elementary and Secondary Education Committee. Their dismissals followed the removal of Republican Reps. Denny Hoskins, of Warrensburg, and Jeff Messenger, of Republic, from a fiscal oversight panel after they teamed up with Democrats Thursday to block a teacher evaluation measure from reaching the House floor.

Jones was not immediately available Friday to comment on why Thomson and Gannon were removed from the education committee. He did not mention their dismissals when meeting with reporters Thursday to discuss removing Republicans from the fiscal oversight panel. He said he removed Hoskins and Messenger because they had policy concerns with the education legislation, not fiscal ones. He said that runs counter to the purpose of the fiscal oversight committee.

Another Republican education committee member said the panel’s personnel changes were not directly linked to the removals on fiscal oversight. But Rep. Dwight Scharnhorst said the situations are similar because they dealt with opposition to the leadership’s education initiatives.

“If you looked at it the Democrats had extra members. (Thomson and Gannon) would vote with the minority time and time again,” said Scharnhorst, of St. Louis.

Scharnhorst is a member of Republican leadership and has been on the education committee since 2006. He said there were requests by Republicans on the committee to remove the members for voting with Democrats.

Both of Thomson and Gannon recently voted “no” on a Jones-backed measure that would have made changes to teacher tenure and required school districts to develop teacher evaluation systems that focus on student achievement and performance. That measure was defeated 102-55 when many Republicans joined with Democrats in opposing the bill.

Every other Republican member of the House education committee voted with Jones in favor of the measure two weeks ago, except for Rep. Lyle Rowland, R-Cedarcreek, who also voted “no.” Rowland is still on the education committee, according to the House website.

Retired teachers and Republican House members Thomson and Gannon both said they learned about their removal from the education committee after session ended Thursday from friends, not from Jones or Republican leadership.

“We don’t always agree on some of the education initiatives and I am sure that has something to do with the move, but that is only my perspective,” said Thomson, of Maryville.

Gannon, of DeSoto, said there isn’t much she can say or comment about the situation other than she did not ask to be removed from the committee. Both declined to speculate on why they were removed from the education panel.

The education bill being pushed by Jones would require school districts to implement an evaluation system for teachers and administrators that would be used as the basis for employment decisions. School personnel would also be classified on a four-part scale ranging from highly effective to ineffective and they would be evaluated on an annual basis.

Both of the Republicans removed from the education committee had long careers in education before running for the House. Thomson was a teacher, school counselor and principal during his 38-year career before retiring. Gannon taught physical education and health for 32 years for DeSoto Public Schools.

Jones appointed newly-elected Rep. Mike Moon, of Ash Grove, to the education committee after removing Thomson and Gannon. Moon was sworn-in Monday after winning a special election to fill a vacant House seat in early April.

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