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Committee recommends merging Missouri's education departments

The Thomas Jefferson statue stands on the steps of the Missouri State Capitol Building in Jefferson City, Missouri on December 3, 2010. (Bill Greenblatt, UPI)

A special Missouri Senate committee is recommending that the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education be merged with the Department of Higher Education.

The proposal was one of several announced today that Senate leaders say will improve education in Missouri. Republican David Pearce of Warrensburg says combining the two will have benefits beyond cost savings.

"It brings all the educational leaders together under one umbrella, and I think it gives an opportunity for us to address issues that maybe sometimes we put off or don’t address," Pearce said.

He also acknowledged that it could still be a tough sell.

"But we’ve got a lot of new members coming in," Pearce said. "Fourty-eight percent are gonna be new in the House of Representatives, we’ve got a lot more new senators as well, so who knows?"

A similar proposal passed the Missouri Senate during the last regular session, but died in the House.

Other recommendations include having the State Board of Education enforce sanctions on consistently low-performing charter schools, and providing merit pay for high-performing teachers. Another would bringing voluntary, universal Pre-Kindergarten to Missouri, although Pearce says support among committee members for that proposal was not unanimous.

The 2011 session begins January 5th.

Marshal was a political reporter for St. Louis Public Radio until 2018.

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