One of the most powerful opponents of public education. Rep. Jane Cunningham, R-Chesterfield, was returned to her position as chairman of the House Elementary and Secondary Education Committee earlier this week.
Ms. Cunningham, as I noted in the Jan. 6, 2006, Turner Report, has made no secret of her contempt of public education, something which logic would dictate would make her exactly the wrong person to place in charge of the committee which has so much control over public schools.
Perhaps the reason for the appointment is the one she gave when successfully campaigning for the post in 2005: the amount of money she brought to Republican legislators from the pro-voucher group All Children Matter:
In the Jan. 6, 2006, Turner Report, I wrote:
However, an even more illuminating picture of Rep. Cunningham's true views about public education comes from an Oct. 1, 2003, article in the conservative School Reform News.
Under the headline, "Trying to Make a Difference in the Show-Me State," the article tells the story of how Ms. Cunningham came to favor vouchers following her experiences as a school board member. When she tried to do something about parents taking their children out of public school and placing them in private school, she said, she ran into a lack of interest. "We have fewer children to educate and we still get their taxes," she says her fellow board members told her. She said that with her background in economics she could see the harm this education "monopoly" was causing.
The point was further driven home, she said, after she took one of her sons out of public school (the article does not say why) and put him in a Catholic school. Her son, who had been receiving A's and B's in math in public school, did poorly in the private school.
"The staff at the Catholic school thought he must have a learning disability, because they could not imagine his local school had done such a poor job," Rep. Cunningham said.
The article goes on to say that "after intensive personal attention by his teacher, her son rose to the 90th percentile in math."
Rep. Cunningham makes no bones about her efforts to move Missouri toward a voucher system. The School Reform News article says, "In 2003, Cunningham sponsored two school choice bills, both designed 'to get folks comfortable with the concept.' One bill addressed the issue of access to programs in public schools denied to non-public schoolchildren whose families were residing in and paying taxes to the public schools. The other, HB 345, would have given school choice to at-risk children in low-income families and in families where a parent is a prison inmate. Although neither bill passed, she was happy to be able to bring some Black Caucus members on board with HB 345." The magazine article was written by Laura J. Swartley, communications director for the Milton and Rose Friedman Foundation, Indianapolis, Ind. The Friedman Foundation began the school voucher movement in 1955.
Rep. Cunningham is serving as chairman of the ALEC Education Task Force. Her co-chairman is Robert Enlow of the same Milton & Rose Friedman Foundation.
When you add the attempts by Gov. Matt Blunt to appoint voucher proponents to the State Board of Education, it is obvious that public education is under attack once again.