We are in an era of "no new taxes", yet still demanding everything we currently have. But letís face it; that formula does not work and cannot work. For example, how much longer do we have to persuade our legislators that Missouri is not a poor state and can afford quality education? I am not proud that our state is one of the lowest taxed states in the country and has the lowest cigarette tax in the nation. So there is plenty of room to obtain additional funds without unduly taxing our citizens.
Our major task is to provide the necessary resources for a high quality education for every child. If the next generation is not well educated they will not be able to lead our city or state, and we shall fall even further. And this applies to the public schools in our own region. This is not acceptable.
As the Post Dispatch stated on April 17th that Missouri is 42nd in per capita spending on higher education and 37th in the nation on spending for elementary and secondary education. Those facts are terrible. Lay on top of that the information that our teachersí pay is almost the lowest in the nation. Whatís going on here? Why are we allowing this to happen?
Schooling is the one opportunity for students to get the foundation needed to become successful in later life. There is so much history to show that cutting back on school funding is a mistake in the long run, the short run and at any time. Sadly, this year the legislature has cut back on per pupil funding and reduced significantly the funding of transportation for students.
Such lack of funding not only hurts children but gives our State a very bad name; an impression that makes people think twice before considering St. Louis and Missouri as a place to move to. Who wants to come to a state that lags in educational opportunities, that refuses to raise taxes when necessary for the benefit of students and teachers. Schools become a pivotal point when people are looking where to move and when companies are considering where to place new facilities or enlarge existing ones.
What has become of the Show Me State? We had the first kindergarten in the nation. We have had prominent national leaders attend our schools. Yet where are we now? Our State is cutting the amount of money that goes to school districts, while asking teachers and administrators to do an excellent job with fewer resources. Donít you want our teachers to earn an income that they can be proud of and not have to have second and third jobs? Good teachers in our area are leaving the profession for higher paying job as they cannot support their families on their current incomes.
I am beginning to wonder what we value. But I do know that if our region and our children are to become competitive in the challenging world ahead, we must be willing to pay now and become rewarded later. Certainly preparing our children for the future is more than worth the necessary investment now.
(The opinions expressed are not necessarily those of St. Louis Public Radio.)
Susan Uchitelle is a consultant for the Voluntary Interdistrict Coordinating Council.