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JEFFERSON CITY — A Missouri lawmaker is proposing a bill that would allow members of school boards to be recalled by voters.
Legislation sponsored by Rep. Chuck Basye, a Rocheport Republican, would also open districts to litigation from parents and taxpayers relating to "the willful neglect or refusal of a public official" to perform certain duties. A similar bill, also sponsored by Basye, passed out of a House committee last session but did not come up for floor debate. He presented this year's version, House Bill 1747, to the House education committee Tuesday.
"There's examples that I think most of us are aware of where we've passed legislation and school districts are just ignoring the law," Basye claimed, pointing to the state's Course Access Program as "the most recent example."
Under the bill, a school board member can be put on the ballot for recall if a petition is signed by 10 percent of the amount of voters who cast a ballot in the most recent election for that district. In the April 2021 board election for Springfield Public Schools, the largest district in the state, the highest vote-getter earned 9,374 votes.
The 10 percent mark is lower than last year's version of the bill, which set the threshold at 25 percent; Basye said the change was because "where I've heard the most complaints from mainly parents has been in the larger districts," where he said that 25 percent mark "would be very difficult" to achieve.
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The bill lists a number of reasons that can be used as grounds for recall of a board member, including "conduct that relates to and adversely affects the rights and interests of the public," "breach of public trust" and "lack of responsiveness to concerns raised by the public or staff."
Any lawsuits against districts under the bill due to "willful neglect" by officials would potentially put those districts on the hook for damages and legal fees.
The Missouri School Boards Association opposes the bill, outreach director Shawn Rhoads told lawmakers, citing the fact that board members are up for re-election every year on a rolling schedule.
Basye has been among the most vocal critics of public education in recent months within the legislature; he has accused Columbia Public Schools of using an "inappropriate curriculum" and called on the district's superintendent to resign.
The district says it does not teach elements of critical race theory, about which Basye requested district documents. A state survey last year determined that only one Missouri district, Kansas City Public Schools, uses elements of the academic framework in its curriculum.
Basye is not alone in challenging districts on curriculum and governance, which has ballooned into a national issue for Republicans in recent months. Rep. Craig Fishel, a Springfield Republican, also requested documents on race and equity training for SPS teachers. Attorney General Eric Schmitt, who is running for U.S. Senate, sued the district, alleging it had violated the Sunshine Law. The district has maintained it did not act out of line with the law, calling the lawsuit a "distraction" shortly after it was filed.
This article originally appeared on Springfield News-Leader: Missouri lawmaker wants to implement school board recall process