I believe there is nothing as important to our future as a state and as a nation than the education of our children. While I am not formally a teacher, I am lucky to have helped shaped the hearts and minds of both very young children and college students. I have worked at Memorial Baptist Church in Columbia doing childcare for kids one evening per week from birth through kindergarten for the last fifteen years. During my three years of graduate school, I taught the biology lab section for non-science majors and became well-versed in teaching biology to college students who were not particularly into science.
From pre-K through graduate and professional schools, our state’s significant budget shortages put education squarely on the chopping block. I strongly believe this is the wrong approach. Mizzou’s reputation as a “public Ivy” was what drew me to college here eighteen years ago and its myriad of opportunities are what kept me here for graduate school and veterinary medical school. Defunding the university and trying to balance our state’s budget shortfall on the backs of college students by expecting them to go into even greater unsustainable debt is the wrong approach. Why are we trying to hurt the young people who are trying to better themselves?
In addition, the University of Missouri is the biggest employer in the greater Columbia area and forcing cuts to degree programs and layoffs of faculty and staff will only hurt central Missouri. The university must continue to attract and retain the best and brightest faculty, staff, and students in undergraduate, graduate, and professional programs or we will only lose out as a community.
Local schools, particularly in rural areas with smaller tax bases, are also suffering from budget shortfalls. Teachers regularly have to use their own money or beg beleaguered parents for basic supplies like markers and Kleenex while teacher salaries in Missouri remain on the lower end of the spectrum in the country. The proposed opening of charter schools and vouchers in these areas under the guise of “school choice” will further hamstring the budgets of public schools struggling to stay open a full five days.
We should not be forcing students to short change their educations while growing their debt loads because of poor budget decisions. I will stand by educators and students to better fund our local schools at all levels.