Saturday, March 15, 2008

Sen. McKenna: supporter of education

Senator Ryan McKenna, of Jefferson County, is an obvious supporter of many good causes. He encouraged schools in his district to participate in The Power of 11 Cents program, raising money for a relief fund to help deserving veterans. He was appointed to, and will be serving on, the Mississippi River Parkway Commission, which coordinates both improvements on and preservation of the Mississippi, a valuable part of his region and our state.

Senator McKenna has also been a strong supporter of educational improvement in the state, as evidenced by his cosponsoring SB 443, which forgives loans to graduates who teach in suffering and unaccredited schools throughout our state.

Given Ryan McKenna’s virtuous leadership in the senate, it is both surprising and disappointing to hear he is not in favor of SB 993, a bill that creates scholarships for children with special needs. Often these children are forgotten in their schools, don’t receive appropriate services, and their parents, already struggling with the challenges that come with raising a child that has autism, Asperger’s, or some other special need, often don’t have the money to take care of their child’s education. Though some of these children do very well in public schools, there are often those that do not.

Opponents to this bill have somehow convinced honest senators like McKenna that this bill takes money from the schools. What the bill, in fact, does is set up a scholarship fund to which people may donate money to. Under the auspices of the philanthropic donations of these citizens and administration of the funds by the state, children with special needs and their families are given a lifeline. Money is donated, and given. No money is taken from the tax base. Tax credits are given to people who give, just as they are given to those that give to other nonprofit funds. The bill is a winner all the way.

Some are also intent on saying the bill paves the way for school choice, letting kids attend private schools. This is just another tactic to derail discussion about the bills actual language, to divert media attention. And even if it were the case, Senator McKenna should have no problem with that, given he was given a good education at Saint Pius X, a private school. But then again, it does not matter, because that is not what this bill is about.

Hopefully Senator McKenna will be able see through the opponents’ murky misrepresentation of this bill and gain focus on its reality: a good cause for kids.

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