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Thursday, Aug. 25, 2016

Feb. 10 - School bills require very close scrutiny

Monday, February 11, 2002

If you pay attention to the actions of the Missouri Legislature, you'll quickly note a trend that applies this year as well as years past. Here's the trend: More attention is focused on education than any other single aspect of our lives. That's not bad by any measure. But it says something about the legislative process and about human nature as well.

Education is a popular topic. When lawmakers return to their districts, voters often don't want to hear about taxes for transportation or budget deficits or internal squabbling. But when lawmakers talk about new policies for education, voters pay attention.

Topics related to our children are as American as apple pie and the 4th of July. It's darned difficult to oppose a measure designed to improve the education of our children. But is all of this constant tinkering necessary? Well, that's a different matter.

Last year alone, Missouri lawmakers addressed over 100 separate bills pertaining to education needs in Missouri. This year with the session just a month old, 50 education bills have been filed.

There's a bill that requires students to say the Pledge of Allegiance and one to give signing bonuses to teachers in rural school districts. There's another to help fund new school construction and one to create a sales tax holiday for parents buying school supplies. And finally, one lawmaker wants to make it a crime for businesses to let truants gather on their property.

Now taken as a whole, none of these measures is flawed. But the real question is how much state intervention do we want in the direction of local school districts. And given that question, you start to suspect the avalanche of bills designed to tweak our educational system.

When lawmakers debate there's only one rule: Don't mess with programs for children or the elderly. You can most certainly expand those programs but in no way should they be reduced. But when so much action is generated from the state it makes you wonder if what applies to an urban school district and a rural school district are the same. This one-size-fits-all approach may not always be the best.

I often think legislators throw in these education improvements simply to ease the way for other matters that lack universal voter approval. It's hard to disagree with a lawmaker who wants better schools for our children. But be careful and look behind the press releases to see if these improvements are really effective and in the best interest of our kids. When viewed in that light some school programs are best left on the shelf.

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