I have always been puzzled by the indifference of state and federal legislators to widespread failure and fraud in the charter sector. The same mystery shrouds the decisions of the billionaires who keep pouring new money into new charters. No matter how many of the charters fail and close their doors, no matter how many of their founders are convicted of embezzlement or padding enrollment, no matter how many are in the state’s list of low-performing schools, the money keeps flowing.

The obvious reason that politicians support charters is because hedge funds and very wealthy donors make sizable campaign contributions. In New York, both Governor Kathy Hochul and NYC Mayor Eric Adams received millions in campaign donations from the charter boosters. We know why free-market zealots like Betsy DeVos and Charles Koch ignore the evidence: They want to privatize education. Why the Wall Street crowd continues to fund failure is a mystery.

A friend in Missouri sent me the previous post about a charter school that was taking in public money despite low academic performance. I asked him why the legislature wanted more charter schools, instead of supporting public schools. It wasn’t rational, I said.

He replied, you have to understand the Missouri legislature, and he sent me the following article. It was written by Stacey Newman, who served in the Missouri legislature for nine years. The picture she paints conjures up thoughts of Mark Twain, H.L. Mencken and Will Rogers. It’s a description of an institution where chaos, dysfunction, and drunkenness are par for the course.

Newman wrote that “dysfunction” was the legislature’s middle name.

As do most voters, I expect legislators to be serious when they take their oath of office. I want to trust they will treat their offices with reverence instead of middle school immaturity — I really do. My first late-night session as a freshman involved debate over a pornography bill. Arguments proceeded way past midnight as I was introduced to #molegafterdark. Coffee cups are allowed on House chamber desks, yet during evening sessions, many of those cups contain alcohol. I was appalled at the drunken debate, remembering how hard I campaigned just to be sitting at one of those desks. Surrounding us were the words carved at the very top of the House chamber: “Liberty, Justice, Law, Progress, Truth, Knowledge, Honor.” Yeah, right.

Hijinks abound every session — particularly as tempers flare between the Republican-controlled state House and Senate. It is routine for both chambers to be at odds as constitutional deadlines loom and members are often campaigning against each other for higher office. Legislators are permitted to carry concealed guns in the Capitol (really) and many pat their pants pockets during high stress debates, reminding everyone who has firepower. One year, I witnessed a screaming near-fistfight of legislators behind my seat as security rushed to intervene. On another late night, I prepared to hide under my desk as an armed inebriated state senator paced our side gallery in intimidation during a contentious House vote on her bill…

Yet we keep hoping for serious people to take over and heed the state motto, “Let the welfare of the people be the supreme law.” It doesn’t say anything about hijinks. There is plenty to do: Fund public schools instead of banning history and attacking teachers; provide access to health care to those who desperately need it and allocate federal relief education dollars, for starters. Accept that masks are not the enemy during a pandemic and that vaccinations, which most elected officials in Jefferson City have received, are lifesaving. Stop with the anti-science hooey left over from the 1692 Salem witch trials. Stop pretending you are aggrieved and, for once, leave your racism and hatred of transgender kids buried at home.

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