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Thursday, Apr. 28, 2016

Capitol Report

Thursday, June 24, 2004

Investing in our schoolchildren

As you may know, funding the education needs of our children is the top priority of the Missouri General Assembly after paying the debt of the state. In spite of the fact that Missouri's economy has been through the grinder the past few years, the House and Senate appropriated a substantial boost of $143 million for public education.

Fortunately, our improving economy, conservative spending and accurate revenue estimates by the House proved to be a positive difference in balancing the budget and providing more money for elementary and secondary education. Even the governor recognized our better financial situation and released all the money he withheld from our schools last year.

It is great to see our rural schools receiving more money this year since our local schools are so dependent on state money. There is no doubt in my mind that an investment in our schoolchildren is a wonderful investment in the future of our state.

Now, with a better financial outlook, the General Assembly can move on next session to some agreement as to how to better fund our schools in an adequate and equitable manner. We owe it to ourselves and to our children to maintain and improve the quality of education in our public schools.

The General Assembly also invested in our schoolchildren by passing legislation to ensure that students are learning in the classroom. The House and Senate agreed to adjust the Missouri Assessment Program, which is a statewide test for students to better assess whether they are meeting expected levels of achievement. Hopefully, this move will ease the implementation of the federal No Child Left Behind Act and end the "apples to oranges" comparison between state and federal standards.

In addition, the General Assembly invested in our schoolchildren by helping our teachers and schools with funding for the career ladder program. Currently, the career ladder program provides extra money for teachers who accept extra duties, such as tutoring. However, when the state's school funding formula is not fully funded, as it has not been for a few years, the extra money from the state is prorated. Now, the state will remove the proration factor from the career ladder and take some of the financial burden off local school districts.

Adequate money and reasonable laws are vitally important to public education in this state. However, there is one important investment that no government, teacher or school administrator can provide to ensure a quality education. And that is a safe, secure home life with caring parents that check the child's work and encourage their performance in school. It is no secret that this is the most important investment in a child's education and performance later in life. The fact is our schools can have plenty of money and do everything right but so many times success or failure rides on what happens when our schoolchildren go home.

Yes, we need good facilities, adequate funding and well-paid teachers, but if we think better buildings, better teachers and passing better laws will assure our children's success then we are missing something. We need to be building families where children feel safe, wanted and loved. Then everything else is possible, including a good education. After all, most folks will tell you that all they really want in this world is to be loved and accepted by the people around them.