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Missouri in the early 2000s


Missouri national park
Missouri national park

Many of the trends of the 1980s persisted into the 1990s. Efforts to end segregation in Kansas City and St. Louis continued to tax the state’s school funds and led to a U.S. Supreme Court decision, Missouri v. Jenkins, requiring reconsideration of achievement requirements and across-the-board pay raises for Kansas City schools. Changes in racial attitudes on the part of both black and white Missourians made the future of desegregation efforts even more questionable as some black activists called for black-controlled schools as preferable to integrated ones, and many whites expressed dismay at the cost of desegregation attempts in the two cities. Indeed, the results of these efforts satisfied few. Politically, Democrat Mel Carnahan broke Republican control of the governor’s office in 1992. Republicans Christopher Bond and John Ashcroft had held the governor’s position during the 1980s (both were subsequently elected to the U.S. Senate). Quickly, Carnahan succeeded in getting the Democratically controlled legislature to create a new formula that increased and equalized state support for public elementary and secondary schools. New standards of expectations for student achievement also became a part of the 1993 law.

Many of the difficulties that faced Missourians in the 1990s were the same as in the rest of the nation. The changes in educational policy reflected the ongoing concern about economic trends that increasingly placed greater emphasis on adequate levels of education and training for employment. Competition in a world economy meant that Missouri companies had to produce more efficiently. Important manufacturing firms such as McDonnell-Douglas (now part of The Boeing Company) employed fewer people and became more profitable. Those who remained employed often made more money than before, and those who had to find work in service occupations often received lower wages.

At the same time, public institutions of higher education raised their fees, making it more difficult for many Missourians to continue their schooling.

Many middle-class people in both rural and urban Missouri struggled to maintain their standards of living. The number of two-parent families with both parents working increased, leaving children with less parental supervision and with greater dependence on day care centers. Teenage gangs, drive-by shootings, drug use, out-of-wedlock births, and other signs of social breakdown received frequent media attention, not only in St. Louis and Kansas City, but also in Springfield and other medium-sized and rural places.

During the 2000 general election, Carnahan, who had been reelected governor in 1996, ran against Ashcroft for his Senate seat. A few weeks before the election, Carnahan was killed in a plane crash as he traveled to a campaign event. At the time of his death, it was too late to remove his name from the ballot, and thus he remained the Democratic candidate. In November Carnahan won the election posthumously. The new Missouri governor, Democrat Bob Holden, appointed Carnahan’s wife, Jean Carnahan, to fill his seat for a special two-year term. Although Ashcroft lost the election, he was appointed U.S. attorney general by President George W. Bush. At the end of her special two-year term, Carnahan sought election to complete her late husband’s term, but she was defeated by Republican James Talent.

The Republicans recaptured the governor’s mansion in the 2004 elections with the selection of Matt Blunt as governor. The same year Ashcroft resigned as U.S. attorney general. Blunt chose not to seek reelection in 2008, and the Democrats regained the state house with the election of Jay Nixon. The victory extended the Democrats’ edge in governorships, with 29 to the Republicans’ 21. "Missouri" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia

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