As yet another school year closes, my thoughts are on what the future holds for many teachers and support professionals in schools across Missouri.
Your school district will have funding withheld before the end of this fiscal year (June 30), and the state budget calls for $185 million in education cuts statewide in the 2003-04 school year. This will be a devastating blow to many school districts. Cuts of this magnitude will result in the loss of thousands of teachers and education support professionals.
The leaders of the Missouri House and Senate have handled their duties so clinically that they appear oblivious to the pain of the teachers who will lose their jobs and the students who will suffer from overcrowded classrooms and the loss of programs that support each child’s opportunity for a well-rounded education.
Although this year’s legislative session is over, you need to contact your elected leaders for at least three reasons.
- Missouri’s economy will improve only when legislators realize education is an investment. Your members of the House of Representatives and the Senate need to understand the cause-and-effect relationship of their actions.
- You can put a face on the impact of these cuts in your school. You know the stories and the people and are the best person to communicate that message to your legislators.
- Finally, you need to know if the legislators that represent you are working to protect school funding or giving excuses about why they refuse to provide the resources we need to educate children.
The only way to fix this funding deficit is to raise revenues. Tax limitation laws cap at approximately $75 million the amount of new taxes that can be passed by the legislature. This will not put a dent in Missouri’s projected shortfall. As a result, a meaningful tax package will have to go before the voters for approval. I believe Missouri voters would support a revenue package to protect funding for schools.
I know this state-funding package would have to be $500-$700 million to spare school funding and other vital state services from further crippling cuts, but it doesn’t appear that Speaker of the House Catherine Hanaway and Senate President Pro Tem Peter Kinder will allow Missouri voters to make this decision—at least not to the extent I predict is needed.
If your legislators refuse to help solve the problem, perhaps it’s time to start thinking about electing someone who will in 2004.
By Greg Jung
Missouri NEA President