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Education petition criticized

November 17, 2003
By: Drew Bratcher
State Capital Bureau

JEFFERSON CITY -A petition posted by Republicans on the state House of Representatives Web site raised Democrats' concerns on Monday.

The "Educate the Children Petition" calls on the public to increase pressure on the governor to release part of the $197 million withheld from Missouri schools this fiscal year by signing the petition.

The House Web site came under immediate criticism from a leading Democrat.

"We don't need a politicized website or a politicized communications office," said Rep. Jeff Harris, D-Columbia. "I hope that what they have posted doesn't violate any of our rules around here."

House Republicans kicked off the petition Monday in a series of press conferences in Cape Girardeau, Joplin and Columbia.

Republicans claim that increases of 5.1 percent in revenue for the first four months of this fiscal year are enough for Gov. Holden to release more money to education.

"This petition is a drive and an effort in order to get Missourians who value education to convince the governor that he has made a mistake, that he does not have to withhold the money ... and to quit playing political gain with this eduational funding," said House Majority Floor Leader Jason Crowell, R-Cape Girardeau.

A spokesman for the Democratic Party said that Republicans were using the state's Web site for political gain.

"To use taxpayer money for political organization has absolutely no place," said Jim Kottmeyer, executive director of the Missouri Democratic Party.

"This is absolutely a misappropriations of funds here from what should be non-partisan communications department at the state House," Kottmeyer said.

Republicans maintained that posting and gathering the education petition did not take any additional costs other than that already included in the salaries of those who posted it.

"I would challenge anyone saying that the cost is more for putting it up on the website because it didn't incur any extra funds to do it," Rep. Carl Bearden, R-St. Charles said.

Bearden said he didn't know whether or not there was a filter on the petition to keep people from stuffing it.

Harris said, "I just hope they don't use this petition to say we've had X number of responses when in fact, that's doubled or tripled."

No one from the House Communications Department was available for comment.