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More Than 200 Organizations Oppose Dangerous DEI Language in State Budget

More Than 200 Organizations Oppose Dangerous DEI Language in Budget
(as of April 24th, 2023)

We believe this language will result in wide-ranging consequences that would undermine lawmakers’ economic and workforce priorities and urge you to remove it from the budget bills.  The budget language would jeopardize licensing and accreditation of programs critical to both the wellbeing of Missourians and our state’s economic competitiveness.

April 2023

To Members of the Senate:

We are writing to share concerns about language the House of Representatives added to the Fiscal Year 2024 budget bills. Specifically, the language of concern would prohibit funding from being used for staffing, programs and vendors associated with diversity, equity and inclusion. We believe this language will result in wide-ranging consequences that would undermine lawmakers’ economic and workforce priorities and urge you to remove it from the budget bills.

The broad language added to the bills raises questions about its practical application and how it would impact an array of services and programs that the state provides – including those critical to lawmakers’ economic and workforce priorities.

The language reads:

No funds shall be expended for staffing, vendors, consultants, or programs associated with “Diversity, Equity, Inclusion,” or “Diversity, Inclusion, Belonging,” or any other initiative which similarly promotes: 1) the preferential treatment of any individual or group of individuals based upon race, color, religion, sex, gender, sexuality, ethnicity, national origin, or ancestry; 2) the concept that disparities are necessarily tied to oppression; 3) collective guilt ideologies; 4) intersectional or divisive identity activism; or, 5) the limiting of freedom of conscience, thought, or speech. This does not prohibit the department from following federal and state employment and anti-discrimination laws.

However, multiple programs and services offered in Missouri are either required by their accrediting bodies to incorporate the concepts of diversity, equity, and inclusion into their programs, or are specifically designed to ameliorate longstanding disparities in health and economic outcomes. The budget language would jeopardize licensing and accreditation of programs critical to both the wellbeing of Missourians and our state’s economic competitiveness. For instance:

  • Many nonprofit child welfare organizations, health and mental health service providers, and others with whom Missouri contracts to provide services are required through their national accrediting organizations to provide programming that incorporates diversity, equity and inclusion. In addition to risks to accreditation, failure to meet those standards could result in the loss of federal funding as well as private funding from foundations.
  • Similarly, the national bodies accrediting professional education programs like those for teachers, social workers, psychiatrists, nurses and other health professionals are also required to incorporate training in diversity, equity and inclusion. Not only would the added budget language jeopardize the accreditation of these programs at Missouri’s public colleges and universities, but the licensure of new professionals could be at risk.

Moreover, we recognize that Missourians continue to face deep disparities in their health and economic outcomes based on race. While white workers in Missouri earn an average of $65,820 per year, Hispanic workers earn $53,178 and Black workers earn just $41,132 annually. While 33% of white Missourians have a college degree, only 21% of Black Missourians and 23% of Hispanic Missourians complete college. Missouri has one of the highest rates in the nation of premature death among Black residents, and Black moms in Missouri face a maternal mortality rate that is three times that of white moms. As long as these disparities exist in Missouri, we should not dampen efforts that would seek to understand and address them.

Unfortunately, the added budget language would likely conflict with several existing efforts, threatening:

  • Targeted workforce and economic development programs,
  • State contracts with vendors to provide services, including minority-owned businesses and other private companies,
  • Department of Health programs targeted based on demographic factors, and
  • Missouri Department of Public Safety’s continuing education for law enforcement that includes education in racial profiling and implicit bias.

There are likely additional consequences related to state contracts with private companies, hiring and employment standards that are not mentioned here, but which could also have far-reaching implications.

The added budget language would severely hamper Missouri’s workforce development and economic competitiveness, and we again encourage you to remove the concerning language from all of the budget bills.

We oppose any efforts that would put language aimed at dampening diversity, equity and inclusion into state law.


Jay Hardenbrook, Advocacy Director, AARP Missouri, Kansas City, MO

Tori Schafer, ACLU of Missouri, St. Louis, MO

Dr. Kendra Holmes, President & CEO, Affinia Healthcare, St. Louis, MO

Tressa Price, Executive Director, Agape House Inc of Mountain View, Mountain View, MO

Lisa Knoll, CEO, Aging Ahead, St. Louis, MO

Erma Berry, AKA Omicron Theta Omega Chapter, Bridgeton, MO

Jennifer Brinkmann, President, Alive and Well Communities, St. Louis, MO

Dr. Maya Moody D.O., President, American Academy of Pediatrics – Missouri Chapter, Jefferson City, MO

Daniel Goodenberger, MD, Governor, American College of Physicians –

Missouri Chapter, Jefferson City, MO

Starla Brennan, Executive Director, Amethyst Place, Inc., Kansas City, MO

Keisha Lee, CEO, Annie Malone Children and Family Service Center, St. Louis, MO

Paula Howell, APO, Springfield, MO

Sara Ruiz, Executive Director, Ashrei Foundation, St. Louis, MO

Fred Rottnek, MD, Medical Director, Assisted Recovery Centers of America, St. Louis, MO

Wendy Orson, CEO, Behavioral Health Network of Greater St. Louis, St. Louis, MO

Chris Krehmeyer, President & CEO, Beyond Housing, St., Louis, MO

Richard Liekweg, President & CEO, BJC HealthCare, St. Louis, MO

Lakshmi Komatreddy, Project Manager, Black & Veatch

Dr. Cokethea Hill, CEO, BLAQUE KC, Kansas City, MO

Emily Kohring, Executive Director, Bread and Roses Missouri, Saint Louis, MO

Jasmine Hall Ratliff, Executive Director, Build Missouri Health, St. Louis, MO

Eric Williams, Executive Director, Calvary Community Outreach Network, Kansas City, MO

Angela Clabon, President & CEO, CareSTL Health, St.Louis, MO

Barbara Wright, Executive Director, Carthage Area United Way, Cathage, MO

Puneet Leekha, Chief Operating Officer & General Counsel, Chestnut Health Systems, Hillsboro, MO

Rochelle Parker, President & CEO, Child Abuse Prevention Association, Independence, MO

Kristina Jones, Vice President of Programs, Child Abuse Prevention Association, Kansas City, MO

Jen Leek, Child & Family Services Director, Wendy Brazeal, Forensic Interviewer, Nicole McKinney, Forensic Interviewer, Shaina Naegele, Forensic Interviewer, Brittany Rhodes, Forensic Interviewer, Susan M. Williams, Development Director, Child Advocacy Center, Springfield, MO              

Lisa Mizell, President & CEO, Child Protection Center, Inc., Kansas City, MO

Megan Marietta, Director of Programming, Children’s Advocacy Services of Greater St. Louis, St. Louis, MO

Kimberly Kemerer, Executive Director, Children’s Advocacy Center of East Central Missouri, Festus, MO

Lori Jones, Development, Children’s Center of SWMO, Joplin, MO

Rob Whitten, Chief Executive Officer, Children’s Services Fund of Jackson County, Kansas City, MO

Emily van Schenkhof, Executive Director, Children’s Trust Fund, Jefferson City, MO

Thomas L Rodebaugh, Professor and Director of Clinical Training, Clinical Science Program, Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences, Washington University in St Louis, St Louis, MO

Maggie Hourd-Bryant, Executive Director, Communities First, St Louis, MO

Bruce A. Eddy PhD, Executive Director, Community Mental Health Fund, Kansas City, MO

Janet Dankert, President & CEO, David Cook, Board Member, Community Partnership of the Ozarks, Springfield, MO

Doug Cowan, President & CEO, Community Services League, Independence, MO

Charlie O’Reilly, Concerned Citizen, Nixa, MO

David O’Reilly, Concerned Citizen, Springfield, MO

Maxine Clark, Concerned Citizen, St. Louis, MO

Ellie Richter, Connections Speech and Language Therapy, St. Charles, MO

Sandra Padgett, Executive Director, Consumers Council of Missouri, St Louis, MO

Monique Thomas, Executive Director, Cornerstone Corporation, St. Louis, MO

Merideth Rose, President and CEO, Cornerstones of Care, Kansas City, MO

Martha Sander, Executive Director, Council on Families in Crisis, Inc., Nevada, MO

Audrey Ellermann, Covenant Blu Grand Center Neighborhood, St. Louis, MO

Kimberly Shinn-Brown, Creekside Farm, Republic, MO

Katie Dalton, Executive Director, Crime Victim Advocacy Center, St. Louis, MO

Constance Harper, Vice President of Policy, Advocacy, & Strategic Initiatives, Deaconess Foundation, St. Louis, MO

Donna Smith-Pupillo, Deaconess Nurse Ministry, Bridgeton, MO

Jim Ruedin, Executive Director, Delta Center, St. Peters, MO

Michael V. Smith, Endowed Professor of Music Education, Des Lee Fine Arts Education Collaborative, St. Louis, MO

Ronika Moody, CEO, Distinct Consulting Services, LLC., St. Louis, MO

Douglas Aaron Freeman, Owner, Douglas A. Freeman Consulting, Chesterfield, MO

Amy Blansit, CEO, Drew Lewis Foundation, Springfield, MO

Deidre Anderson, CEO, EarlystART, Kansas City, MO     

Lucia Obergoenner, WHNP-BC, East Missouri Action Agency, Park Hills, MO     

Shelley Moore, ECH Every Child’s Hope, Saint Louis, MO

Deborah Mann, Executive Director, Emmanuel Family & Child Development Center, Kansas City, MO

Mallory Rusch, Executive Director, Holly Honig, Policy Director, Empower Missouri, Jefferson City, MO

Rev. Emma Holley, Faith Des Peres Presbyterian Church, Frontenac, MO

Cheri Tillis, CEO, Fathers & Families Support Center, St. Louis, MO

Julie Lock, Food Outreach, St. Louis, MO

Lori Ross, CEO, FosterAdopt Connect, Independence, MO

Annie Foncannon, Executive Director, Franklin County Children and Families Community Resource Board, Union, MO

Lester Gillespie, CEO, Fresh Start Self Improvement Center, Charleston, MO

Je T’aime Taylor, Executive Director, Front Porch Alliance – Kansas City, Kansas City, MO

Clyde McQueen, President & CEO, Full Employment Council, Kansas City, MO

Katie Rahn, Executive Director, Gateway Early Childhood Alliance, St. Louis, MO

Cynthia Duffe, Executive Director, Gateway Housing First, St. Louis, MO

Kendra Copanas, Generate Health STL, St. Louis, MO

Dionne Ferguson, Executive Director, Good Journey Development Foundation, St. Louis, MO

Marcus Howard, Chief Executive Officer, Greater Health Pharmacy & Wellness, St. Louis, MO

Reona Wise, President & CEO, Guardian Angel Settlement Association, St. Louis, MO

McClain Bryant Macklin, Vice President of Policy and Impact, Health Forward Foundation, Kansas City, MO

Sarah Starnes, Heartland Alliance for Progress, Kansas City, MO

Tom Lally, President & CEO, Hillcrest Ministries of MidAmerica, Inc., Kansas City, MO

Rachel Pozzo, Adult Program Coordinator, Immigrant Home English Learning Program, St. Louis, MO

Gabby Eissner, Community Organizer, Inter-Faith Committee on Latin America, St. Louis, MO

Angie Blumel, President & CEO, Jackson County CASA, Kansas City, MO

Ellen Scholten, Site Director JCC, Jewish Community Center, St. Louis, MO

Jane Callahan, Executive Director, JF Roblee Foundation, St. Louis, MO

Crystal Faris, Deputy Director Youth & Family Engagement, Kansas City Public Library, Kansas City, MO

Wil Franklin, CEO, KC CARE Health Center, Kansas City, MO

Brian Schmidt, Executive Director, Kids Win Missouri, Ballwin, MO

Susana Elizarraraz, Deputy Director, Latinx Education Collaborative, Kansas City, MO

Karina Arango, Director of Advocacy, League of Student Advocates, St. Louis, MO

Marilyn McLeod, President, Louise T. Wilkerson, Vice President, League of Women Voters of Missouri, St. Louis, MO

Scott Walker, President & CEO, LifeWise StL, St. Louis, MO

Eston Mayfield, Director, Little Whitewater Baptist Church Food Pantry, Patton, MO              

Anna Jordan-Douglass, Owner, Makefully, LLC, Kansas City, MO

Erin Coppenbarger, Manager, Maternal & Infant Health Initiatives, March of Dimes, Saint Peters, MO

Emily Stuart, Marillac Mission Fund, St. Louis, MO

John Fierro, President & CEO, Mattie Rhodes Center, Kansas City, MO

Suzanne King, President & CEO, Mental Health America of Eastern Missouri, St. Louis, MO

Katie Rodman, Vice President of Development, Mental Health Association of St. Louis, St. Louis, MO

Lora McDonald, Executive Director, Metro Organization for Racial and Economic Equity, Kansas City, MO

Rev. David Gerth, Executive Director, Metropolitan Congregations United, St Louis, MO

Scott Meier, National Sales Manager, Mid-West Family Broadcasting, Springfield, MO

Kathy Pabst, Executive Director, Missouri Academy of Family Physicians, Jefferson City, MO

Jake Hummel, President, Missouri AFL-CIO, Jefferson City, MO

Hong Chartrand, AHEC Program Director, Missouri AHEC Network, Kirksville, MO

Phyllis Pasley, Executive Director, Andrea Branstetter, Missouri Alliance for Arts Education, Maryland Heights, MO

Karrie Snider, President, Missouri Association for the Education of Young Children, Lee’s Summit, MO

Julie Peetz, Executive Director, Missouri Association of Area Agencies on Aging, Jefferson City, MO

Mario Millsap, MSOT, OTR/L, President, Missouri Black Occupational Therapy Caucus

Amy Blouin, President & CEO, Missouri Budget Project, St. Louis, MO

Cheryl Robb-Welch, CEO, Missouri Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence (MOCADSV), Jefferson City, MO

Mary Chant, Executive Director, Missouri Coalition for Children, Jefferson City, MO

Alice Bloch, Missouri Dance Organization, St. Louis, MO

Vicky Davidson, Executive Director, Missouri Developmental Disabilities Council, Jefferson City, MO

Tracey Bloch, Legislative Director, Missouri Disability Empowerment Foundation, Rolla, MO

Mandy Hagseth, Director of Policy and External Affairs, Missouri Family Health Council, Jefferson City, MO

KJ McDonald, Organizing Director, Missouri Health Care for All, St. Louis, MO

Richard von Glahn, Political Director, Missouri Jobs with Justice, St. Louis, MO

Jessica Seitz, Executive Director, Missouri KidsFirst, Jefferson City, MO

DeeAnn Aull, Executive Director, Missouri NEA, Jefferson City, MO

Heidi N. Lucas, Executive Director, Missouri Nurses Association, Jefferson City, MO

Missouri Occupational Therapy Association (MOTA), Columbia, MO

Nikole J Cronk, PhD, President, Missouri Psychological Association, Columbia, MO

Carla Wiese, President, Missouri PTA, Columbia, MO

Sandra Boeckman, Executive Director, Missouri Public Health Association, Jefferson City, MO

Rhonda Perry, Executive Director, Missouri Rural Crisis Center, Columbia, MO

Tim Shryack, Board President, Missouri Rural Health Association, Jefferson City, MO

Karen Gridley, Executive Director, Missouri Statewide Independent Living Council, Kansas City, MO

Teri Turner, Advocacy Chair, Jennifer Forrest-James, Missouri Thespians, Ballwin, MO

Julie Donelon, President & CEO, MOCSA, Kansas City, MO

Angel McDonald, Executive Director, Mother’s Refuge, Independence, MO

Aya Kawasaki, Multicultural Counseling and Research Center, St. Louis, MO

Christine Patterson, Executive Director, Christina Gesmundo Simon, Vice President, NAMI St. Louis, St. Louis, MO

Rev. Jenn Simmons, National Avenue Christian Church, Springfield, MO

Amy Kuo Hammerman, State Policy Advocacy Chair; Jen Bernstein, Advocacy Manager, National Council of Jewish Women – St. Louis, St. Louis, MO

Anna Meyer, Senior Manager of Grassroots Advocacy, National Multiple Sclerosis Society, Creve Coeur, MO

Courtney Thomas, Newhouse, Kansas City, MO

Verna Kelsey, Executive Director, North Central Missouri Children’s Advocacy Center, Trenton, MO

Linda Mattson, Executive Director, North Star Advocacy Center, Maryville, MO

Melinda Monroe, CEO, Nurses for Newborns, Saint Louis, MO

Tracy Russell, Executive Director, Nurture KC, Kansas City, MO

Mary Esselman, President & CEO, Operation Breakthrough, Kansas City, MO

Kristen Wild, President & CEO, Operation Food Search, St. Louis, MO

Tim O’Reilly, CEO, O’Reilly Hospitality Management, LLC, Springfield, Missouri

Velta Smith, Organization for Black Struggle, St. Louis, MO

P. Scott Hummel, MSW, PhD, Executive Director, Our Little Haven, St. Louis, MO

Jennifer Olson, Executive Director, Sara Villines-Patterson, CSBG Project Coordinator, Ozarks Area Community Action Corporation, Springfield, MO

Aimee Wehmeier, President, Paraquad, Inc., St. Louis, MO

Alison Gee, Vice President, Government & Community Engagement, Parents as Teachers, St. Louis, MO

Demaris Ridgell, Patient Advisory Board, St.  Ann, MO

Leslie Peck, Pecks Insurance and Financial Services, Inc., Springfield, MO

Mark Sanford, Executive Director, People’s Community Action Corporation, St. Louis, MO

Ed Weisbart, MD, Physicians for a National Health Program – MO Chapter, Olivette, MO

Vanessa Wellbery, Planned Parenthood Advocates of the St. Louis Region and Southwest Missouri, St. Louis, MO

La’Shana Torello, Health Center Manager, Kourtney Vincent-Woodbury, VP of Equity and Community Relations, Planned Parenthood Great Plains

Terry Flowers, PNHP, Independence, MO

LJ Punch, Executive Director, Power4STL, St. Louis, MO

Maggie Olivia, Pro Choice Missouri, St. Louis, MO

Anne Kraus, Manager of Public Policy and Advocacy, PROMO, Saint Louis, MO

Katie Heiden-Rootes, PhD, Queer & Trans Wellness Clinic, St. Louis, MO

Brenda Porter, CAC Director, Rainbow House Regional Child Advocacy Center, Columbia, MO

Brenda Sharpe, President & CEO, REACH Healthcare Foundation

Bre-Ann Slay, Licensed Clinical Psychologist, Reflect to Connect Psychology, LLC, Kansas City, MO

Emily Macdonald, Executive Director, Regional Family Crisis Center, Perryville, MO

Christy Moreno, Chief Community Advocacy & Impact Officer, Revolución Educativa, Kansas City, MO

LaDonna Williams, Executive Director, Rural Advocates For Independent Living, Kirksville, MO

Cynthia Danley, CEO, Safe Connections, St. Louis, MO

Jessica Hill, Executive Director, Safe House of Southeast Missouri, Cape Girardeau, MO

Dr. Kanika Cunningham, Saint Louis County Department of Public Health, Berkeley, MO

Marshaun R. Butler, MHSA, Vice President & Administrator, Saint Luke’s Hospital of Kansas City, Crittenton Children’s Center, Kansas City, MO

Donna Thompson, Executive Director, SEMO Alliance for Disability Independence, Cape Girardeau, MO

Sister Carol Boschert, Sisters of the Most Precious Blood of O’Fallon, MO, O’Fallon, MO

Rebel Lillo, RMA, South Central Child Advocacy Center, West Plains, MO

Kendra Eads, Executive Director, Southeast Missouri Network Against Sexual Violence, Jackson, MO

William Palmer, Advocacy Chair, Speech and Theatre Association of Missouri, Lee’s Summit, MO

Dede Coughlin, St. Cronan Church, St. Louis, MO

Mark A. Keeley, President & CEO, St. Louis Arc, St. Louis, MO

Muriel Smith, Executive Director, St. Louis Area Diaper Bank, St. Louis, MO

Jessica Gerfen, St. Louis Behavioral Medicine Institute, St. Louis, MO

Elizabeth George, Director of Community Investment, St. Louis Community Foundation, St. Louis, MO

Luka Cai, Executive Director, St. Louis Queer+ Support Helpline, St. Louis, MO

Angela Brown, CEO, St. Louis Regional Health Commission, St. Louis, MO

Dr. Jumesha Wade, Start at Zero, Kansas City, MO

Stephanie Boydston, Executive Director, STW Charities, Kansas City, MO

Marsha Keene-Frye, CEO, Connor Bryars, Community Development Director, Reva Jones, Community Violence Prevention Educator, Nikole Keene, Director of Victim Services, Willie Epps, Hiset Instructor, Susanna Wesley Family Learning Center, Charleston, MO

Evelyn Johnston, ABE Secretary, Holli Childers, Crime Victim Advocate, Susanna Wesley Family Learning Center, East Prairie, MO

Robin Winner, Co-Executive Director, Tiffani Clark, CAC Director, Synergy Services, Inc, Parkville, MO

Julie Seymore, Executive Director, The Child Advocacy Center of Northeast Missouri, Wentzville, MO

Nicole McKinney, Forensic Interviewer, Shaina Naegele, Forensic Interviewer, The Child Advocacy Center, Inc., Springfield, MO

Paula Neth, President and CEO, The Family Conservancy, Kansas City, MO

Brian Herstig, President & CEO, The Jewish Federation of St. Louis, St. Louis, MO

Dave Almeida, Regional Director – State Government Affairs, The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society

Jillian Meriweather, Principal Owner, The Meriweather Group, Kansas City, MO

Will Jordan, Executive Director, Marissa Cohen, Director of Education, Outreach, and Advocacy, The Metropolitan St. Louis Equal Housing & Opportunity Council, St. Louis, MO

Michele Utt, The Missouri Association for Infant & Early Childhood Mental Health (MOAIMH-EC), Kansas City, MO

Emily Stuckey, The National Peer Recovery Alliance, Lake Saint Louis, MO

Dayna M. Stock, CEO, The Rome Group, St. Louis, MO

Faith Sandler, Executive Director, The Scholarship Foundation of St. Louis, St. Louis, MO

Michael Soodjinda, CEO, The Whole Person Inc., Kansas City, MO

Tonya Lewis, Executive Director, Tri-County Center for Independent Living, Rolla, MO

Deanna Finch, Executive Director, United 4 Children, St Louis, MO

Elizabeth Shelton, Executive Director, Robin Koetting, Read to Succeed Program Manager, United Way of Southeast Missouri, Cape Girardeau, MO

Greg Burris, President & CEO, United Way of the Ozarks, Springfield, MO

Darlene Sowell President & CEO, Unleashing Potential, St Louis, MO

Alexandra Rankin, Associate Director of State Policy, Upstream USA

Matt Pagnotti, State & Local Government Relations Director, Vivent Health

Alleigh Emmendorfer, Voices for Children, Cape Girardeau, MO

Sharon Hileman, Executive Director, Voices for Children/CASA of Southeast Missouri, Cape Girardeau, MO

Marjorie Moore, Executive Director, VOYCE, St. Louis, MO

Shaashawn Dial, Voycetress Media LLC, Columbia, MO

Sabrina Davis APRN-PMHNP, MSN, Executive Director, WalkNFaith, Saint Louis, MO

Tammy Buckner, CEO, WeCode KC, Kansas City, MO

Rev. Dr. Mark R. Miller, Westminster Presbyterian Church, Saint Louis, MO

Christina Donald, Senior Vice President, Programs and Advocacy, Wyman, Eureka, MO

Pat Holterman-Hommes, CEO, Youth In Need, Inc., Saint Charles, MO

Danielle Stewart, YWCA Head Start, Saint Louis, MO

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