As the debate rages on in Mississippi over our tax dollars following a child to a private school and/or out of state institution, I am left dumbfounded by the uneducated and no common sense commentary that has fallen out of the mouths of those responsible for making our laws. Whether or not the discussion concerns SPED students, dyslexic children or other students within our state, I just do not understand some of the mindsets. I know that this discussion is not new or isolated to Mississippi, but this is where I live. What happens in Mississippi impacts my children and me as their parent. Here are my personal thoughts on the matter.
In the course of every single day in Mississippi public education and every other MS public body, our tax dollars are used to pay for the services of private businesses or out of state vendors, so what makes the MS education issue of whether or not our tax dollars should follow a child to a private school or out of state school any different than our tax dollars already being spent daily on private and/or out of state businesses and vendors?
If our education tax dollars support OUT OF STATE and/or private businesses/vendors such as Apple, Microsoft, consultants, literacy programs, professional development services, universities, CEU training, food service companies, textbook companies, testing companies, teachers, etc., all of which provide services for children in MS, then what is the difference of those same tax dollars supporting a private and/or out of state school that is providing educational services for a child in MS? And AGAIN let me emphasize that MS tax dollars are already going to OUT OF STATE and/or private businesses that are for the purpose of serving Mississippians. What’s the difference here?
Secondly, if you care about public education and teachers, then why do you not support making their jobs easier? Do you know how hard it is on an educator to have 1-5 or more classes of 25-30 students all of whom are on different learning levels: ELL (students who don’t speak English as a first language and many that don’t speak English at all), SPED students, students with issues such as ADHD or Autism, kids with medical issues, IEP students, kids with allergies requiring special accomodations, gifted or Spotlight students needing to be challenged, kids with Dyslexia, average learners, poverty stricken kids, homeless children, students without involved parents and then kids with overly involved parents all while trying to follow an ever changing curriculum and standards meant to educate all of the above mentioned students, ridiculous amounts of paperwork, federal regulations, state regulations, MStar evaluations, stringent and constant testing, keeping up with daily parent communications and parent conferences, attending regular CEU classes and all while also responsible for chaperoning extra curricular activities at school AND having their jobs hang in the balance if their students don’t show a certain amount of growth throughout the year? Do you know what a relief it would be to our public school teachers to see one of their struggling or dyslexic students finally get the help that he/she needs? Do you know the weight that would be lifted from their shoulders to no longer have a child in their class not show growth because they aren’t getting the help he/she needs and knowing that the teacher won’t have to worry about being penalized for something that is out of their control? Do you know the amount of time, heart ache, parent meetings and student class time that could be saved by giving a student another option and relieving the teacher of one less mountain to climb?
When we find ways to help the children succeed because they don’t fit in a certain average box, it also helps the educators be able to do their jobs better and more efficiently. We expect teachers to do jobs that oftentimes they aren’t trained to do and/or can’t possibly do as one person. Then, we take it one step further and penalize teachers for failing our kids. Teachers would love to not have such a broad range of students with so many varying needs in their classrooms. It makes their jobs somewhat easier, more doable and doesn’t leave them feeling as if they have failed their students. I have seen the tears in teachers’ eyes and listened to them explain how helpless they feel because one of our children is struggling, and there is absolutely nothing the teacher can do for him/her. They want to help. They do care, but the system is flawed. Our teachers’ hands are tied, and the system isn’t failing just our kids. These teachers have their own children in our public schools. They, too, have children with special needs, learning disabilities and/or needs that are not being met. Because they work for the system does not give them a leg up on any of us. I can promise you that. Our teachers feel the same pain that we do and more because they witness these struggles every day.
Thirdly, do you know how much money it costs to provide special services to students with special needs? Look at the amount of money that is spent on a SPED student, a student with a learning disability or any other child that requires more than the average student and learn what all goes along with them district wide (costs for SPED departments, psychometrists, psychologists, federal programs, counselors, interventionists, special learning resources, specially trained educators, additional CEU classes/training, attorney costs, etc. and this is multiplied times 2 bc there are costs for all of these things at the local and state level). If you are unaware of the costs involved, I am happy to go over at least 5 years worth of budgets (state and local) to show you the big picture. When a student has $6000-$7000 follow them to a school of their choosing (private or otherwise and regardless of location), that saves MS money, and services are still provided for students who live in our state. To me, this is no different than purchasing an educational resource, textbook or laptop that comes from out of state and is used to educate our kids and no different than paying an out of state individual to work in our schools.
In MS, we have teachers and school district employees statewide that live in other states but work in our MS public schools. By employing out of state individuals in our MS public school system, our tax dollars are essentially going out of state. So what is the fuss about our tax dollars going to a private, out of state institution?
One of the two differences here is simply logistics. The teacher comes here to our students versus a student going to the teacher across the state line. The second difference is that the MS school system is held liable and responsible for the actions of the teacher that comes here, whereas what happens to the student when he/she crosses over the state line at the private school is of no issue to or liability/responsibility of the MS public school system. I see all kinds of positives for Mississippi with this arrangement.
Lastly, there are many Mississippians who live on or near state lines, thus they work in other states. Mississippians who cross state lines for work are still required to pay MS state taxes bc they live and receive services in MS. So what is the problem with MS students using MS tax dollars to provide them an education? His/her parents are still paying MS taxes and taxes for schools, so what is the ‘real’ problem here? Please feel free to comment and share your thoughts.