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Mo. Senate passes education merger


By Marshall Griffin, St. Louis Public Radio

Jefferson City, Mo. – The Missouri Senate has passed a proposed constitutional amendment that would combine the two departments that oversee education into one state agency.

The resolution would merge the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE), which oversees K-12 schools, and Higher Education, which oversees universities and community colleges, into a new agency to be called the Department of Education.

The sponsor, Senate President Pro-tem Charlie Shields (R, St. Joseph), says although the move would save money, the ultimate goal is to create a better education system.

"Right now, Missouri is a 30-something state in terms of how many of our students go past high school for a post-secondary degree...we can do better than that; this is a step in that direction," Shields said.

The resolution passed the Senate on a unanimous vote. But its chances in the Missouri House are far from certain, according to Speaker Pro-tem Bryan Pratt (R, Blue Springs).

"We can be more efficient with taxpayer's dollars by streamlining some of these activities...saying that, the devil is in the details...there hasn't been a whole huge wave of support in the House on those issues, so I think there's going to be some work that the Senate's going to have to do to go in and tell us why this is a good idea and why we should ultimately pass it," Pratt said.

But if the House does pass the resolution, it would go before Missouri voters in November.

Pratt also expressed doubt about another Senate proposal to merge the Missouri Highway Patrol and the State Water Patrol into one law enforcement agency.