JEFFERSON CITY — A proposal to eliminate tenure for future professors at Missouri’s public schools was sharply criticized during a House committee hearing Wednesday.
Rep. Rick Brattin, R-Harrisonville, said he proposed House Bill 1474 to save taxpayers’ money by getting rid of tenure for professors hired in or after 2019.
But other lawmakers, like Rep. Joe Adams, D-University City, oppose the legislation. Adams, a history professor at St. Louis Community College-Meramec for 32 years, called the bill a “direct attack” on the University of Missouri System.
“I am unalterably opposed, and if this bill makes it to the floor I will be going ballistic,” Adams said. “And if I’m lucky enough next year to be on that other side, it’s definitely going to be dead on arrival. I’m letting you know that right upfront.”
Representatives from the Missouri AFL-CIO, Missouri Western State University, the Missouri National Education Association and Missouri State University in Springfield testified against the bill. Some said it would make it difficult for colleges to recruit and retain faculty.
The bill also would require institutions to post specific information on all degree offerings, such as the estimated cost, types of employment opportunities after graduation and the current job market for people with that degree. Institutions would have to post the information online or in a course catalog.
Lawmakers also were divided over another proposal to increase or eliminate tuition caps.
House Bill 2348, which would change caps at public universities, is similar to Senate Bill 912, which would allow these universities to increase tuition 10 percent above the rate of inflation. Both bills would help schools recover losses in state funding.
“There’s a reason why this bill is here now,” Paul Wagner, executive director of the Council on Public Higher Education, said in favor of the bill.
Gov. Eric Greitens’ proposed budget cut almost $98 million from higher education, including $43 million from the UM System.
“I believe we’ve done our part in terms of holding tuition down, dealing with flat or sometimes reduced state funding, and clearly what we’ve done to accommodate that are things that are not necessarily in the best interest of students,” Wagner said.
The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Charlie Davis, R-Webb City, said a “key” part in the bill allows schools to set their own tuition without a cap if the legislative body doesn’t increase funding through appropriations.
Rep. Greg Razer, D-Kansas City, said he believes in giving schools this option but also believes it is unfair to students.
“I think we should be giving more money in the budgeting process to begin with to take that burden off of the students,” Razer said.
Davis said he has had a lot of students come into his office in support of a tuition increase.
“They said, ‘I would rather pay more tuition to ensure the programs that I have been going through stay at the college universities and that my college university stays viable in our state,’” Davis said.
The next step for both bills will be a vote by the committee. If approved, they go to the House.
Supervising editor is Mark Horvit, email@example.com.