Thursday, March 6, 2008

Rep. Schlottach, trusted with parents' rights

I read on Rep. Luke Scavuzzo’s website this quote:

“Trust is not a prize politicians get for winning. It must be earned every day by hard work. I hope I have earned your trust by representing our community with the highest standards, ensuring that our needs and values are heard in Jefferson City. I respect all members of my community and believe they should all be valued equally. I have and will continue to serve my community with the convictions of honesty and integrity.

There is still a lot of work to do. We need to increase economic development and job growth by attracting quality jobs that provide good wages, quality health care and employment security to all Missourians. We need to improve our education system from pre-kindergarten to college.”

General sentiments like that, while encouraging, don’t really tell us much. What matters is what happens that support those statements, and it really is hard to tell. Ideologically, many legislators believe they’ve been elected to offer their best judgment on an issue that many voters may not be well-informed on. Others think that their position requires them to root out the leaning of their constituents and try to replicate that sway in the legislature. Probably most are trying to strike a balance.

HB 1886, in my opinion, is one of the issues in which a parent’s view is most important. This legislation will give parents with special needs a choice about what school works best for their child, and what will best help them reach their educational goals. A tax credit scholarship program will give donated funds to special needs students to go to a private school if their parents determine that the current public school isn’t meeting their needs.

Talking to parents is the best way to learn about what struggles they are facing, why they need this choice, and the benefits they’ll be able to get for their children. Parents with special needs children are the experts on the subject, and they are asking for this opportunity for their kids. I hope Rep. Scavuzzo has a chance to ask the experts about how HB 1886 will help their children, and the difference it will make.

Charles Schlottach has been vocal and supportive of giving parents more options when it comes to their children’s education. He’s one of the stalwarts in the House who recognizes that the education we have available today isn’t enough for some, and that instead of implementing long-range plans and putting more money into a system that isn’t working for every student as it’s supposed to, we need to give Missouri parents the ability to vote with their feet and find the best education available for their child, whether it’s from a public school or not.

There’s a big difference between supporting the public schools and supporting public school children—it’s the same as the difference between supporting the diary industry and supporting dairy farmers: they go hand in hand, but if the price of milk is such that farmer’s can’t afford it for their families, what good have we done?

In education it’s the same. We need a public education system. We need to fund it, reform it, staff it, promote it—but if, after we’ve done all those things children still aren’t learning, we can’t just throw up our hands and say well, we tried! Work with what you’ve got! We need to have options for parents who have done all they could working with their public school and still need something else for their child, and we can’t limit it to those families who have the money to afford the cost of private education for special needs students.

I hope to see Charles Schlottach voting again in favor of parents’ rights, and the right that children have to an appropriate education, as he has in the past.

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