The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

March 26, 2013

Geoff Caldwell, guest columnist: Funding should be based on fact, not emotion

By Geoff Caldwell
Special to The Globe

JOPLIN, Mo. — Guest columnist Kirby Newport (Globe, March 24) may be the best teacher since Aristotle tutored Alexander the Great, but his argument against Senate Bill 26 is so replete with innuendo and emotion that logic and facts are left locked out of the classroom.

From the “cut that will potentially cause a $920 million shortfall in state revenues,” to the personal “the guest author outlined what he believed to be anti-public education trends,” to a colleague’s “I am so disheartened today, I have always thought of myself as a good teacher. I receive great feedback from students and college professors,” all the appropriate strings of the heart get pulled, but the brain is left begging for useable information.

While there is no reason to doubt that Mr. Newport’s anecdotes are factual accounts, they are irrelevant to the debate of whether Senate Bill 26 is smart legislation.

The Missouri Constitution requires that Mr. Newport’s chosen field of public education receive, at a minimum, a quarter of all state revenue. (I know of no other profession with such a guaranteed income stream, yet no matter the political party in power, no matter the year, no matter the current economy, said profession is never satisfied with the funding it receives.)

We can most certainly have a debate whether that 25 percent is sufficient. But that debate needs to be based upon results and outcomes, not on feelings and emotions. 

The problem with Mr. Newport’s argument is not whether it is noble or just; the problem is that it floats atop the shallowness that has become the norm rather than the exception in our political discourse of the day. What should be a serious discussion on the public education system failing far too many of our children devolves into sideshows of political theater promoted by one special interest after another.

The United States has poured literally trillions of dollars into Mr. Newport’s public education system over the past half-century, yet it continues to fail millions of the very children it is supposed to be helping.

That is not a personal slight to him or the tens of thousands of other teachers doing all they can with what they’re given. It is merely a reflection of a system that has moved the profession away from objective instruction and onto a six-lane highway of political correctness multiculturalism and “methods” with rest stops at every mile marker overflowing with free cups of feelings, emotions and self-esteem.

Mr. Newport’s pleas to the reader — “I just feel that I am being punished.” ... “I want to teach. I just want to teach. Let me teach. I’m good at it!” ... “I believe in learning. I believe in your child. I believe in public education.” — are the epitome of what public education has become.

The irony is that for as flawed as Mr. Newport’s argument is, Senate Bill 26 should be opposed if for nothing more than three simple reasons:

Believing that decreasing income tax rates by a mere 0.75 percent but then increasing the state sales tax by 0.5 percent will somehow cause thousands of small businesses to start cropping up across the state requires a belief system so devoid of logic and reason that you might as well propose a mileage tax on unicorn flights.

It actually lowers Missouri’s current antiquated top tax bracket of $9,000 down to a pathetic $7,600 by 2018. If graduated tax brackets are to be kept, then at least bring them into the 21st century and the income realities of the day.

Transferring more of the tax burden onto Missouri’s working poor and fixed-income seniors in the hope that businesses and jobs will come does nothing to solve the demand side of growth and only hurts worse those struggling the most.

Mr. Newport is absolutely correct in opposing SB 26, but that has nothing to do with anyone wanting to teach.

Geoff Caldwell lives in Joplin.