Blunt pushing for education reforms
JEFFERSON CITY – In an exclusive interview with The Pathway Dec. 14, Gov. Matt Blunt said his administration is committed to increasing public education funding, that parents – not teachers or administrators – should be the primary decision maker for their children and it is time to cease public funding for Planned Parenthood, America’s largest provider of abortions.
One example of an education reform measure the governor likes is a bill that would use state tax credits to create a scholarship fund that could send as many as 10,000 urban children to private schools.
“We’re going to continue the fight and the battle and try to make the case that the status quo is not good enough,” Blunt said. “It’s not good enough when our kids are falling behind the rest of the world in math and science. It’s not good enough when we have parts of the state where children do not get a quality education.
“For most of your readers, and for most Missouri families, they wouldn’t send their kids, for example, to the St. Louis city public school system. And it is unjust for us to allow that situation to continue. We need to explore any and all options to provide children in that school district and others that are failing to meet the mark with some options and provide them with a world-class education.”
Since Blunt took office in 2005, Missouri public schools have seen nearly a third of a billion dollars in new funding. The governor was asked to come up with a dream budget figure for public education, an ultimate high end, if God continues to bless Missouri with increased revenue during his tenure.
“We’ve been able to increase funding both years (in a manner) that exceeded the rate of inflation,” he said. “Public education’s important. We need to recognize that parents are the primary educator and they need to be the ones making education decisions for their children, not government, but we do need to ensure that every Missourian has access to a high-quality, world-class public education that prepares them for a very competitive global economy.
“We were able to increase education funding last year (in a) very tough budget year, (and we) did the same thing this year. Both years the rates of increase exceed inflation, which I think is a good measurement if we’re giving schools resources that exceed the growth in the (formula). That means they really do have more resources, in my opinion, to apply.
“We have a formula, and in that formula over seven years we increase education funding by about $800 million, so I suppose in answer to your question we would accelerate that and fund that more quickly. But I feel like the resources that we are providing are an appropriate use of tax dollars, good stewardship of tax dollars. If revenue were to grow by certain measures, we’d want to return some of that to the people of Missouri.
“In the coming legislative session, tax relief will be a priority—trying to control the growth and the size of government. I believe in small and limited government. That means you need to control the tax burden. I’m somebody who believes in low taxes. I believe we’ve got an opportunity to provide some tax relief in the coming legislative session. At the same time, we’re significantly increasing education funding and creating a new system to provide health care to low-income Missourians.”
Blunt agreed that even if he were to direct an additional $1 billion or more toward public education, a segment of the state’s education bureaucracy would still find something to complain about.
“At the end of this budget year, we will have increased education funding significantly over three years,” the governor said. “I intend to provide more resources to public schools every year that I’m governor.
“There are some in the education establishment for whom you could never provide enough funding, and they’re fairly vocal about that. There are some in the education establishment that are opposed to, or really I should say (are) so absolutely wedded to the status quo that they don’t want to hear about reform. They don’t want to hear about changes. They don’t want to hear about empowering parents. There are some in the education establishment that don’t agree with the statement that parents ought to be the primary decision maker when it comes to the education of their child. And, I’m not surprised that those groups in the education establishment often oppose the very reforms that I would like to ultimately see enacted.”
Blunt, a Southern Baptist, envisions a Missouri public education system that is in tune with the values of most Missourians. He has a hard time believing that Planned Parenthood, which operates contrary to a biblical worldview as it helps perpetuate immoral sexual practices in public schools, has the same set of values that he sees at work in most Missourians. As such, he said he remains open to the idea of trying to get Planned Parenthood out of Missouri’s schools.
“The idea that Planned Parenthood provides a lot of the sex education in classrooms in the state of Missouri is, I think, a concern, and we shouldn’t spend tax dollars to fund Planned Parenthood through our school districts,” Blunt said.