Springfield, MO

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Letter to the Editor: Public education faces royal flush

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It is a foregone conclusion that public education faces the poker equivalent of a royal flush, and as you know, that kind of hand is all but impossible to beat.

Educators recognize this is crucial because bluffing with those who have no reason to blink may result in a bankrupt public school system. In going bankrupt, I am not only talking about money but also the entire system as we know it.

President Donald Trump has made it known he is a supporter of privatizing the public education system. A sure sign of his ideology began to unfold when he selected Betsy DeVos as his secretary of Education.

She has proven herself time and again, especially in Michigan, as a voucher, tax credit, for-profit education supporter with virtually no public school experience and quite frankly no knowledge of the breadth or depth of what public schools are required to do. One would think we can rely on our Congress here. But I think assumption would be incorrect.

With the super majority of the president's party in place and with a historical record of pro-privatization, those of us seeking support for public education from Congress may need to consider folding our hand early, thus saving what political resources we have for another day.

Adding to the royal flush, here in Missouri, we have an elected governor who is on record supporting this ideology. That was recently evidenced in his advancement of the education savings account, where money can be used for private school tuition or home schooling. As for our state legislators, where a super majority of its members belong to the same party as the governor, we find little relief there.

So there they have it, a royal flush, a hand capable of beating anything thrown their way.
What is one to do if preserving the rich tradition and benefits of public education is your goal? Many of us fear a sloppy overhaul of public education will bring us the educational equivalent of the sloppy overhaul of health care in 2010 we now know as the contentious Affordable Care Act.

Not involving input and action from opposing points of view only builds resentment and eventually a harsh backlash, as we are seeing now with the ACA. Rather, one would hope we could be courageous enough to acknowledge the many benefits embedded and embodied into our 200-year tradition of providing quality public education experiences to many of America's young people.

Truly, Horace Mann had it right when saying, “The public school is the greatest discovery made by man." Let's not get greedy for the sake of political pride. Rather let’s rebuild or reform from the ground level up a national education system based upon the everlasting strength found in state and local control. And let’s do this part in concert with the other party — the one that is currently in little condition to negotiate. History shows that when the country carrying the big stick extends an olive leaf at the right time to the right people, everlasting appreciation and camaraderie grows from that courageous gesture (i.e., Japan).
To those holding the royal flush, let us have a seat at the table and use our experiences, ideas and intellect to help build a better tomorrow for all the young people that deserve a quality education regardless of where he or she is born and raised.

—Stephen Kleinsmith, superintendent of Nixa Public Schools


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