"I know no safe depository of the ultimate powers of the society but the people themselves; and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them, but to inform their discretion by education. This is the true corrective of abuses of constitutional power." - Thomas Jefferson 1820

"There is a growing technology of testing that permits us now to do in nanoseconds things that we shouldn't be doing at all." - Dr. Gerald Bracey author of Rotten Apples in Education

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Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Begging at the Education Appropriations Altar

Yesterday, the MO Education Appropriations Committee held a hearing to hear public petitions and testimony regarding Missouri's spending on education. The full gambit  of what MO spends money on, that it considers education, was not discussed.  Rather, several state and local groups came forward to  o on record either requesting that their funding not be cut or that they might receive an increase. The witnesses who testified represented a wide array of interested parties which, knowing that this hearing did not cover the full education budget for the state, makes me very curious about what else we fund.

The Missouri Kidney Foundation was one such petitioner. In the big picture the money they receive is small and it does go towards educating Missourians about kidney disease and treatment/insurance options, but it seems strange to be paying them out of the Education Budget as opposed to, say, the HSS Public Health Services budget.

The Missouri Association of Sheltered Workshop Managers representative was warmly welcomed by the Committee.  From their website, "The MASWM is comprised of a group of professional leaders dedicated to enhancing Sheltered Workshops in Missouri, programs for the people we serve and the business services we provide. The association is a leader in the field of disability awareness through education, advocacy and active involvement in the legislative process." Sheltered workshops are independent local businesses (e.g. thrift store, packaging plant, light assembly) who employ persons with disabilities giving them a dignified way to provide for themselves because, as one site said, they "would rather earn money using their abilities than be given money for their disabilities." Considering the small stipend they receive from the education appropriation versus the $100 a day they would cost the state to keep them in adult day care, this seems to be money well spent.  Look for the businesses in your county here and check out what they do.

The appropriations committee's job is difficult, balancing the needs and the budget available to support such operations. A clear sense of their mission is necessary to accomplish this. Several of the witnesses from yesterday will challenge the committee to keep that mission in mind and be consistent in their decision making process.

For example, MOREnet was there making a modest request for $317,000, (given that their funding in previous years had been as high as $16 million.)  MOREnet members provide connectivity services like internet access and networking to the states schools and libraries. Their goal is to" explore and deliver new ways to enhance learning opportunities."

Speaking immediately after them was Parents as Teachers who has experienced sharp declines in their funding recently. Through their representative's testimony and follow up questions, it was made clear that one of PAT's major goals in to have parents engage with their children. The was met by a field of heads bobbing affirmatively on the committee agreeing that this was very important.

Juxtapose this with the previous testimony from MOREnet who bragged about how they were able to supply the Joplin dorms, which housed families dislocated after the tornado, with internet access in only a couple days. Their representative noted that he was sure those parents appreciated being able to have Nickelodeon back for their kids so quickly.

So, parents who had a unique opportunity to reconnect and engage with their children after a disaster, were quickly resupplied with the heroin of cable access so they could plop their kids down and disconnect from them again.  This seems somewhat at odds with the head bob inducing goal of PAT.

That conflict of purpose for education is a little easier for the committee to resolve since MOREnet does provide internet access and computer networking services to our state's schools, both k-12 and post secondary, which certainly falls in their bailiwick of education funding.

The request from an other petitioner, Teach For America, will prove a little more challenging for the committee in terms of staying consistent. Their upbeat and positive presentation painted a picture of a program that will help students in Missouri's poorest performing schools. The whole story is more complex and poses a real problem for the state. We will have more on TFA later this week.

1 comment:

  1. Teach For Awhile does not sustain communities; but the recruitment efforts provides jobs for those who might not get one otherwise. Communities deserve more than short term investing and so do the kids in those communities.


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