During the last week of June, 10 Missouri school board members from around the state met in Washington, D.C. to advocate for public schools. School board members across the nation make up the largest group of elected officials, and most of them are unpaid volunteers with a heart for students. The heartbeat of school board members is to advocate for strong schools, which, in turn, protects the rights and education of our nation’s most valued natural resource, our children.
In this turbulent political environment, the school board members voice is more important than ever. School board members must leave their partisan opinions aside when governing school districts. It must be one voice consistently asking the same question over and over, “Is this what is best for all children?”
Many times the question of what is best for kids is set aside or overlooked in the decisions being made on a local and federal governmental level. While we would like to think all decisions are simple, there are ripple effects to every law passed and there will be ripple effects when those laws are amended or repealed.
It is not a Democrat or Republican issue. These are facts of what will happen and elected officials need to have a full picture and a full understanding of the impact of decisions they are making.
A current example is the proposed cuts to Medicaid and how these cuts will affect school districts. Many may not know public school districts must welcome and educate all children, even those with very fragile medical conditions. The school districts are responsible for the medical expenses these students need while in school. Some of these expenses can total in the tens of thousands of dollars.
In the past, school districts were able to receive funding from Medicaid to help offset 50 percent these expenses to pay for nurses, motor skills staff and more. While these proposed budget cuts would decrease what the federal government spends, it will not change what school districts are required to spend. School districts will have to decide whether to make cuts or to pass on the burden to taxpayers for an increase in local taxes. June’s delegate of school board members met with each Missouri representative’s offices to discuss specifically how this issue and others would effect their school districts.
Other issues discussed were the reauthorization of the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act, which has the potential to advance more career pathways for students. We also encouraged the reauthorization of the Child Nutrition Act in a way that would grant flexibility to local school districts to administer school meals programs that fit within the federal guidelines, but meet the needs of their districts more efficiently.
One main goal was to encourage them to level the playing field, so that all schools who receive tax dollars must be held to the same accountability and standards that assure every child is prepared for college, careers and citizenship, and so that communities can accurately compare schools rather than allow those outside of the public sphere to develop their own rating system.
The most important message that these 10 school board members carried to Washington, D.C., was Missouri’s public schools are doing great things. We are graduating out innovative, creative, young people who are making a difference in our nation, and we encouraged them to make efforts to get into these schools so they can see first-hand what is going on in their home state.
Linda Daugherty is vice president of the Nixa school board and superintendent at the Academy of Hair Design in Springfield. She can be reached at email@example.com.