State money should be the great educational equalizer

Thursday, February 14, 2008 | 12:00 p.m. CST; updated 10:46 a.m. CST, Wednesday, February 4, 2009
David Rosman

A little of everything falls into the mix when teaching humanities, and speech communications is no different. My classes usually include a bit of philosophy, religion, mathematics, statistics, chemistry and of course, quantum mechanics and a big dose of politics.

Bumper stickers also share a large mix of philosophy, science, religion and politics. If the print is large enough, many are just fun to read. For example, a bumper sticker on a Scion xB, the rolling box that everyone loves to hate, simply said: Hummer Escape Pod!

In Denver, it was a bumper sticker on the back of an old, slightly rusted pickup truck, complete with a grimy cowboy and rifle in the gun rack. It was 1978, and I had just moved west from New York City and was getting used to the altitude and attitude concerning newcomers, John Denver (both on the “distrust” list) and Denver’s unprecedented growth from cow town to major city. The bumper sticker’s message, modeled on the mountains of the state’s license plate, was clear and direct: First Thing We Do – Kill ALL Flatlanders!

Political bumper stickers are all over the board, supporting and opposing politicians, policies and issues. Some even make you think, like “Freedom Is Not Free.” It was originally a pro-Iraqi/Afghanistan conflict message. For me, it is a discussion of the government’s role in education and the assessment of taxes. Regardless of the source of the funding, the burden is placed squarely on the citizens to pay for the education of our future leaders of business, commerce and government.

Horace Mann, the father of the American education system, understood “free” public education is not free. He also understood that education is the only method of maintaining our prosperity, freedom and security. He believed, as I do today, that education is the great equalizer and the shining light to the road out of poverty. Horace Mann knew that your tax dollars are fueling American public education. A month ago, Columbia’s School Board recommended a 54-cent increase in the tax levy, bringing the levy to $5.25 per $100 of assessed property value. It is the right thing to do.

We have placed a burden on our schools not felt by private institutions, which may pick and choose who attends their classes. Yet public schools are one of the first targets in state and federal budget cuts. From textbooks to air conditioning, money is an equalizer, and it’s money that comes from the citizens.

You would not work in a facility that is outdated and maintains a poor working environment, old reference material, older furnishings and badly outdated technology. You would refuse to work for a company that refuses to fund improvements, falling ever further into the abyss. You would find work elsewhere if you are not being paid your worth. Why ask our children to be educated in such facilities?

That is what the radical anarchist legislators are doing to the Missouri public education system, especially when their only apparent charge is to destroy government from the inside out. Through the act of reduced revenue through tax cuts resulting in education budget cuts, they place unfair demands on the public education system. Public education cannot enter the 21st century because of the greed of a few. CPS is asking us to correct this inequity.

If education is our road to freedom and the light on the road out of poverty, then it is the fiscal responsibility of the state to spread the burden to all citizens and fund the system properly. Your tax dollar is the fuel. Education is Freedom and Freedom is Not Free.

Now there’s an idea for a new bumper sticker.

David Rosman is a business and political communications consultant, professional speaker and instructor at Columbia College. He welcomes your comments at

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