Springfield News-Leader

Burlison’s letter shows he doesn’t understand public education

- Missi Hesketh Guest columnist

Here is what Rep. Eric Burlison left out of his proclamati­on of support for school choice and SB 727: Public schools are essential to the overall success of our communitie­s!

Where Burlison draws on the emotions of his base by calling our schools failing and calling for “reforms to return power to families,” he dismisses the facts of what our public schools do so well every day in attempting to meet the various learning styles of students, ensuring students are fed, addressing mental health and hygiene needs, attempting to involve every student so that he or she has a sense of belonging, working through hotlining issues in cases of abuse and neglect, offering enrichment and challenge to those working ahead of the rest, and so much more. Burlison has no idea what educators and administra­tors do on a daily basis to try and ensure that EACH student is able to learn. Fifteen percent of Burlison’s district is below the poverty level. Has he done one thing to help address that? When he was in the state House or state Senate did he do anything to address the poverty levels? Surely he has heard of Maslow and understand­s that students who are hungry, who are homeless, who are fearful of not having a place to go home to after school or food to eat CANNOT LEARN during the course of a day?

Something else Burlison left out is that those who are already receiving MOScholars monies will be at the top of the list to get more monies going forward. He claims “low-income families and parents of students with special needs can receive scholarshi­ps worth $6,375.” Folks, the operative word there is “can.” They won’t, because the private schools can discrimina­te willy-nilly as they want; they don’t have to take your special needs child even if you can afford the balance due after the scholarshi­p — which the vast majority of us can’t! They raised the eligibilit­y in order to expand the approval rates for those who can afford it!

Neither Rep. Burlison, Corey DeAngelis, the American Federation of Children, Jason Bedrick, The American Heritage Foundation, nor Sen. Andrew Koenig have any of the interests of our communitie­s who understand that our public schools are the bedrock of our communitie­s. Where Burlison wants to “save America and save Missouri” by increasing school choice — I’d rather save our communitie­s by investing in public education! Missouri ranks last in starting teacher pay. “Oh, I didn’t go into teaching for the money,” may be true for many educators, but it sure does help to be able to focus on meeting the needs of your students daily when you know you’ve got your own mortgage and food bills covered! And those of us who understand education know that teacher retention is essential in building positive and powerful learning communitie­s. You know when you have a new server or salesperso­n. You also know when you have a veteran teacher who has mastered not only the curriculum (albeit ever-changing), but classroom management, the art of parent communicat­ion, identifyin­g needs, and understand­ing the health of the environmen­t we create for students.

Parents can choose to homeschool. There are plenty of great homeschool­ing families. Parents can choose to send their children to private school. There are plenty of good private schools, as well. But the vast majority of us in the Missouri 7th — the district that Representa­tive Burlison is supposed to be looking out for — still don’t have access to private schools because they are either too far away or we can’t afford the difference from the voucher. Perhaps, if Missouri’s Republican supermajor­ity had invested in public education for the last 20 years, Burlison wouldn’t see our schools, and those in the trenches doing the work, as failing.

Missi Hesketh is mayor of Forsyth and a Democratic candidate for Congress in Missouri’s 7th District.

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