The Missouri PTA has invited U.S. Senators Claire McCaskill and Roy Blunt, and U.S. House Rep. Billie Long to talk about their plans for future education in Missouri. The organization says the group plans to ask questions mainly focused on funding for early childhood education, the federal deficit reduction and other top priorities. KSMU’s Rebekah Clark has more.
According to PTA Vice President Dorothy Gardner, the organization works with localized PTA branches throughout the state to improve child welfare within schools. Then, the group works with those units to host an annual town hall meeting for that area that allows community members to address some educational issues that have come up throughout the year with elected representatives. The Springfield Council PTA is the local branch that will work with the Missouri PTA to run this year’s event.
“We’ve designed these as a way to first, inform our legislators about PTA issues, and in addition, give the members of that community an opportunity to hear those legislators’ stance on those issues. We’ve found that individuals are more likely to become active advocates if they feel they have made some sort of personal connection with their legislature.”
Gardner says they do invite both state and federal representatives to attend these events. For next week’s meeting, senators Bob Dixon and Jay Wasson are invited to come, along with local representatives Sonya Anderson, Charlie Norr, Lincoln Hough, Kevin Austin and Lyndall Fraker.
Gardner says Rep. Elijah Haahr will not be attending the meeting, but plans to send his answers to the questions in advance, allowing the moderator to read his words verbatim. She says she hasn’t heard from any of the other representatives yet, but says that’s normal, especially since some of them were just voted to office a couple of weeks ago. However, she says most of the town hall meetings around the state are scheduled this time of year on purpose.
“We like to try to get them before they go into legislative session because we want them to be a little more assessable. Once they’re actually in session, they’re in different committees; that also infringes upon their ability to attend local events. We also want to get our priorities into their mindset before these bills start to get pre-filed.”
Each year, the national PTA develops their own list of top educational priorities, which address federal level issues. The topics discussed in next week’s local meeting will focus on a few major issues on the state level.
“This year our questions are going to focus on priorities for improving education, adequate funding, the re-authorization of elementary and secondary education act, or some people still call it No Child Left Behind, tackling funding for early childhood education, and we’re also going to address the federal deficit reduction in regards to education.”
She says funding issues have been a crucial concern the last couple years.
Mary Christiano is the president of the Springfield Council PTA.
“My children have all graduated through the public schools, and they’ve all done very well in their professions and in their education. I think our schools have given them a very good grounding so that they can continue to go on to either careers; into continuing education, or into the workforce.”
She echoes Gardner, saying that funding for education is probably the biggest concern of local community members. She says the group is also exploring ways to use new technology in classrooms to grow a student’s educational experience even more.
The meeting will be next Wednesday, Dec. 5 at 9:00 a.m. at Holland Elementary School in Springfield.
Missouri PTA represents more than 70,000 members statewide.
For KSMU News, I’m Rebekah Clark.