Two days after that statement, Herschend and his wife, Jo Dee, made their only political contributions of 2007, according to Missouri Ethics Commission, giving identical maximum $675 contributions to the Senate campaign of Rep. Jane Cunningham, R-Chesterfield...the most outspoken proponent of educational vouchers for private schools in the state legislature.
I wrote about Mrs. Cunningham's support for vouchers in the Jan. 6, 2006, Turner Report:
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.
Though the contributions do not put Herschend in the voucher supporters quarter, the fact that he was reappointed by the governor, who has nominated two voucher supporters who are currently serving on the board, Derio Gambaro and Debi Demien, as well as another who appears to lean in that direction, Rev. Stanley Archie, and backs Mrs. Cunningham, could indicate a long road ahead for supporters of Missouri's public schools.