We began the week last Monday with a meeting with all the school superintendents in the southwest area. Sen. Ron Richard led off with an update of likely legislation for next session. The superintendents were wanting some assurance that there would be increases in funding as promised by the governor. We explained that even when we have increased spending in past years, the governor has withheld those increases for one reason or another.
One area of particular concern for my district is transportation funding. The governor has cut funding for transportation several times in the past few years. While this is not very damaging to school districts with 100 or 200 miles of bus routes daily, it is devastating to McDonald County, Neosho, and Seneca, who travel up to 3,000 miles daily to pick up and return students. Yep, I said 3,000 miles! With fuel, tires, and maintenance costs at all time highs, you can imagine the strain on our school district budgets. I intend to work with superintendents to propose legislation to address this problem. We also had a discussion on the Common Core standards. There is a great deal of confusion about what it is actually designed to do, how that is to be accomplished, and what changes and additions to the initial curriculum are to be implemented. We have been told that there are several senators who intend to withhold funding for the program until we get some straight answers. Sometimes it makes more sense to go slowly with major changes like this.
The Crowder College Foundation held its annual Festival of Wreaths on Tuesday evening. The event was very well attended and there were marvelous things to bid on at the silent and live auctions. Bob Lasswell volunteered his services as auctioneer again this year and did a great job as always. I tried to bid on a 1966 Mustang, but Ross Babbitt wanted it a little more than I did! Vicki will enjoy driving it. The Babbitts also provided a wonderful dinner and as usual, I had two desserts! Jane was bidding on the silent auction and surprised me with a camo office chair. All I need now is a beard like Phil!
Wednesday we drove to Springfield for the annual nursing home legislator lunch. Nursing homes and long term care facilities in the area provide lunch yearly for legislators to thank us for helping them care for those who cannot care for themselves. It was extremely well attended by representatives and senators alike.
Thursday we were at MSSU meeting with interim president Dr. Alan Marble and their board. They had many of the same concerns as did the K-12 administrators. The state has only so many dollars to divvy up and our job is to spend them as wisely as possible. Higher ed institutions around the state have been handcuffed by the governor in that they are not able to raise tuition. No one wants to see the price of an education go up, but it only takes common sense to realize that you cannot continue to provide a high quality product when your costs exceed your revenue.
Page 2 of 2 - Only the federal government gets to print money, not our colleges. At noon, I was privileged to attend the Golden Living Center Thanksgiving banquet. Susan Woods and her capable staff did an absolutely remarkable job of preparing and serving a sit down meal to several hundred residents and their families (and one hungry state rep).
We are certainly blessed to have such a great facility in our back yard. The list of sponsors and volunteers participating is way too long to mention, but it sure makes me proud that we live in an area that is so caring!
Lamar, Seneca, and Webb City football teams are all going to represent us at the state football championships next week! Not bad for little old Southwest Missouri.
I've said it many times, but there just isn't anyplace I'd rather live than right here. After church Sunday, Jane and I went to the Dairy Queen in Seneca. There was a family with six children sitting right across from us and all of the children prayed out loud in unison before starting their meal! It just doesn't get any better than that.
More next week, until then I am and remain in your service.
Bill Lant represents the people of Newton and McDonald counties in the Missouri House of Representatives.