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An Education Superhero

The following is an excerpt from a recent publication by the Missouri Association of School Administrators (MASA). The article was written by Roger Kurtz, Executive Director.

I have learned a lot from Gary Sharpe, the former MASA Executive Director. At the end of each legislative session, Gary would list the heroes and heroines of the just completed session. He would give credit to the legislators who stepped up for education; thank those who stopped bad legislation; and point out the many friends we had in the Missouri legislature. I don't think we need to wait for the end of the 2014 session to identify not only a hero, but a superhero in the Missouri Capitol - Governor Jay Nixon.

It all started last summer when Governor Nixon began his crusade to stop a runaway tax cut proposal (HB253) by vetoing the bill and then actively campaigning throughout the state seeking support to sustain his veto. His hard work paid off in September when the legislature failed to override his veto. I might add that there are 15 Republican heroes and 52 Democrat heroes who helped make this happen.

But he did not stop there. At the MSBA/MASA Fall Conference in October, the Governor announced that he wanted to fully fund the foundation formula by the time he left office in three years. How could he say such a thing? Was this really a politician openly advocating that the state live up to its commitment to the public schools? Did anyone really think that he would follow through and put almost a $200 million increase for the foundation formula in his budget request?

He did not. He changed his mind. He decided to propose full funding of the formula in two years and he put $278 million in his 2015 budget request! And, he increased the transportation categorical by about 15%, added more money for early childhood education, and in total, proposed over $365 million in additional K-12 funding. Now that is the work of a superhero!

Regardless of your political affiliation, you have to be impressed. Finally, we have a leader in the Missouri Capitol who is willing not only to stand up for public education, but to make it the cornerstone of his service to this state. Skeptics say schools will never get that much money. I submit that schools will never reach adequate funding levels if we do not have a Governor who is willing to make education a priority and include increased funding in his budget request. He has done his job in superhero fashion.

We cannot sit by idly and watch politics grind up the Governor's recommendations into the tiny bits of increased funding that we have seen in recent years.

Now it is our turn. We are in the midst of one of the greatest opportunities to improve Missouri public school funding that we have witnessed in the 21st century. We may never have another education superhero in the Governor Mansion. We cannot sit by idly and watch politics grind up the Governor's recommendations into the tiny bits of increased funding that we have seen in recent years. We must follow the Governor's lead and take new bold actions.

Superintendents should approach this issue just as if the proposed increase in funding were on the local ballot. Discuss with your Board of Education how the proposed increase in state funding will be used during the 2014-15 school year. Get input from teachers, parents, and the community. Prepare a very specific plan. Get local business support. How will this impact your local property taxes? Will this avert a property tax increase in the future or will it allow for a voluntary reduction in property taxes next year? Is this additional funding actually a tax cut for your patrons? Write letters to the editor and by all means, communicate with your legislator(s) about your plans and seek their support.

Sounds like a lot of work. It is. There is not much time. Agreed. The plans need to be finished by mid-February at the latest. However, this is our opportunity to leave a legacy for the children we serve. It's our chance to show that we can be among the top ten education states in the nation if we have the funding to meet the needs of our students. It's our chance to show the leaders who stand up for education that we will do our part to ensure that every dollar for which we are entrusted will be used for the betterment of our students.

We have a superhero in the Capitol. I know that we have superheroes leading our schools. I have often said that there are three kinds of people in this world. Those who make things happen, those who watch things happen and those who wonder what happened. It's time to make things happen! Be your school's superhero!

Let us know how we can help at MASA.