Public schools are a place where all children should feel welcome.
That has always been my goal and the goal of the teachers who work with me. If Missouri State Sen. Will Kraus, R-Lee's Summit, has his way, that will continue to be the case, unless you have a Hispanic surname or perhaps your accent or the color of your skin differ from Sen. Kraus'.
The senator would like to see Missouri join Arizona and Alabama in requiring public schools to become the law enforcement arm of a right-wing agenda. Parents who want their children to attend a public school will have to furnish evidence that their child is legal.
The idea, Sen. Kraus said in a statement issued Tuesday, is to determine how much money illegal immigrants are costing the state of Missouri. It is not to punish anyone, he insists.
Of course, if the General Assembly passes Kraus' bill, we will see an increase in dropouts, the same thing that happened in the other states that passed this legislation. And while the courts have ruled to this point that students cannot be turned away, the very fact that such a law exists creates more than enough fear to keep any parent who is in this country illegally to keep their children away from the schools.
It also creates yet another mountain of government-mandated paperwork that does not do one thing to educate children. It is also likely that the cost of implementing this law will simply divert already scarce dollars at a time when Missouri, like many other states, are not putting enough money into its schools.
With the announcement earlier this month that Speaker of the House Steve Tilley, who has received more than a quarter of a million dollars in campaign contributions over the past three years from billionaire educational voucher supporter Rex Sinquefield, has removed former educators from the House Education Committee and has replaced them with anyone who has filed an anti-teacher or anti-public school bill (and one representative who was home schooled and home schools all of his children), it appears that public education in Missouri, like in most states, has a target on its back once again in 2012.
I shudder to think of what public education in Missouri will look like in a couple of years. Vouchers, which will likely be passed under the euphemism "tuition tax credits," will enable public money to be poured into private schools, public school teachers will be paid on the basis of how their students do on poorly written standardized tests, teachers will be allowed to enter the field with fewer requirements since everyone knows that experienced teachers (in the new way of thinking) are a liability.
And while the children of those whose parents are wealthy enough to contribute to political campaigns will find their private school education subsidized by taxpayers, the public schools, long the backbone of Missouri communities, will still be around, as well.
After all, someone has to handle the students who are not wanted by the private schools and monitor those who do not look or sound like Will Kraus.