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Career Ladder program may face cuts

By Marshall Griffin, St. Louis Public Radio

Jefferson City, MO – House Democrats in Jefferson City today blasted Republicans over potential plans to de-fund a program that supplements teacher income.

The Career Ladder program provides extra pay to teachers who take on extra duties. Nearly 350 school districts in Missouri took part in the program during the 2007-2008 school year.

A letter by House Budget Chairman Allen Icet (R, Wildwood) and Senate Appropriations Chairman Gary Nodler (R, Joplin) was sent in June to the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE).

It says in part that state funding for the program may not be assured during the current school year, and that Fiscal Year 2010 will be the last year funding will be made in arrears for Career Ladder.

State Representative Sarah Lampe (D, Springfield) accuses Icet and Nodler of unfairly trying to change the rules.

"With the new school year in progress and local budgets already set, it would be the height of unfairness to impose an after-the-fact pay cut on nearly 18,000 teachers," Lampe said.

Icet, in turn, accuses Democrats of political posturing.

"We the state have financial challenges, just like the school districts, and until such point in time as 82 members of the House and 18 members of the Senate agree on what the budget is, no one knows what Career Ladder's funding, or funding for any other general revenue program for that matter, will be," Icet said.

Icet also says the intent of the letter was to prepare Career Ladder school districts for the possibility of cuts being made to the program. He adds that no final decision has been made.