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kid-cigIn nineteen days you will be asked whether you want a cigarette sales tax to “pay for education.”  As I already wrote about, the initial purpose of Amendment 3 was not about the children, it was about forcing small tobacco suppliers into the 1998 Tobacco Liability Settlement. It was wrapped in education, specifically early childhood education, through an agreement between big business and… big business. Raise Your  Hands For Kids is spearheading the push to pass Amendment 3 and many are already receiving their robo calls. You should know who RYH4K is before you hand them another windfall by voting yes on Amendment 3.

According to their website, the mission of RYH4K is to “promote family-centered, high-quality early learning and health investments that every child needs to become a productive, self-reliant and confident adult.”  Their vision is “to build a healthy and educated workforce that will help Missouri grow and prosper.” Their mission is workforce development and they intend to get that from the public school system.

The are the advocacy arm of Alliance for Children which is made up of businesses from around the state who have the same goal.  From their website

The Alliance is a non-profit, non-partisan coalition of business leaders committed to improving Kansas and Missouri’s education systems. The organization was founded on the premise that the business community has the obligation, opportunity and capacity to increase the college and workforce readiness of all students through an ambitious, aggressive and comprehensive reform agenda.

Got that? They have an “obligation” to make sure kids come out of school ready to work for them and will use “ambitious” and “aggressive” means to achieve that end. They will do this through:

“Our Vision is to Create synergy between the business and education communities so that our region’s children achieve their greatest potential and our communities can capitalize on a creative and talented workforce.  Toward that our strategies and tactics are guided by five core principles:

  •  Accountability – Responsible for our commitments and responsive to our members and the media
  • Innovation/Choice – Application of creative approaches to develop solutions with a proven ROI
  • Transparency – Results should be available, concise and clear to all constituents
  • ROI – Investments of time, talent and treasure must have measureable outcomes”

They are accountable to themselves and the media, not the public which funds public education. Perhaps they mean they are only accountable for their own meddling. They want a Return On Investment for their efforts which means they want “measurable outcomes.”  Here is where the push for standardized testing is coming from.

These business leaders see no difference between public education and a business.

“Successful businesses use principles such as transparency and accountability to make strategic investments for the future.  They also utilize partnerships to coordinate and leverage investments of time, talent and treasure in order to multiply results.  Education is no different.”

Sure education is no different than business except that you can’t control all the other elements that are influencing your product outside of your production line, there is no definitive quality control test for character and other soft skills you keep saying you want in employees, and it is designed to fulfill a social contract not generate a profit (or ROI.)  But other than those little things, sure education is exactly like a business.

That doesn’t mean there isn’t business influence in education. Just ask Johnathan Freiden, CEO of U.S. Toy & Constructive Play Things and one of the founders of Alliance For Children. His company was facing serious economic crisis when the economy tanked in 2008.  Looking for a new source of revenue he turned to the ARRA, or stimulus bill, to find public money to buy his company’s products.

“But Freiden saw much hope in the stimulus package. U.S. Toy caters to schools and entities that help children, as well as to consumers, and the stimulus offered billions for early childhood development.

When he got back from his trip, Freiden mapped out the applicable agencies on a big whiteboard, and U.S. Toy went to work contacting them. It began helping customers find ways to apply for stimulus money to spend on its products.

U.S. Toy helped Head Start customers apply for money to buy things such as playground equipment and tables and chairs. It sought contracts with military bases given stimulus money for childhood development. The trackable efforts have yielded more than $550,000 in sales, so far.”

Bizjournals Jan 24, 2010

U.S. Toy worked with Head Start customers to get money. They just want to help the little children so much. Is it any wonder they are looking for the public to grant them even more money through Amendment 3’s requirements for broadening early childhood education, setting up more failed programs like Head Start which could be placing orders with U.S. Toy?

RYH4K wants you to be ashamed that Missouri ranks 38th in state spending on pre-school, yet provides no support (because there isn’t any) that spending any more money on early childhood education leads to later success in school let alone a better prepared workforce. If there were such a correlation, our children would be doing much worse on the NAEP than 27th place. And clearly there are other states who spend even less than us and yet have a higher economic growth than we do. They want you to get upset over a meaningless statistic.

Major tobacco producer and marketer RJR Reynolds funneled $2.1 million to RYH4K, a group of businesses not educators or families,  to help clothe their efforts to make the little tobacco companies “pay their fair share.” RYH4K has raised over $2.9 million for their advocacy work thus far. Whether or not you agree with Reynold’s cause, consider what happens to that money after it is collected.  Think about the control structure that will be enshrined in our state constitution if Amendment 3 passes.

Consider this quote from Linda Rallo, co-founder of Raise Your Hand for Kids, the committee which collected signatures for the ballot measure.

“Now is the time for Missouri to invest in the earliest years of our children’s lives. Amendment 3 provides a guaranteed revenue source for early childhood that politicians can’t touch.”

Many will think that is a good, blaming politicians for lack of funding for education. The truth is that the work of the commission created by Amendment 3 is nothing new. It has been funded for years. The commission is a replacement for Coordinating Board for Early Childhood which received a little more than $17 million in funding in FY2016 which is almost twice what it received in 2014. The only national benchmarks that Missouri’s Preschool Program did not meet were to provide one meal/day for preschoolers and screenings or referral services for things like vision, hearing, health.

What is new is that this commission will have funding come directly to it that the legislature cannot touch, much like the tax money collected as described in Amendment 1 on this ballot this November. That money goes to the Conservation Department and also cannot be touched by the legislature. This is the Department that did nothing to challenge the EPA’s designation of the White River watershed as a federal Blueway project under control of the U.S. Department of the Interior which would have placed regulations on that water and land without input from local stakeholders. Without serious grassroots efforts and efforts by our DC representatives, that designation, for a program the DoI had no statutory authority to create in the first place, would have stuck.

The early childhood education commission created by Amendment 3 shall have full regulatory power over hospitals, health care facilities, early childhood education providers and all who receive grants from the fund. What recourse do the people have if they don’t like what the Commission is doing? The legislature does not have the power of the purse over them.

Don’t give power to an unelected commission that is being pushed by business leaders who think public education is a business, one that they hope to make money from. Vote no on Amendment 3.




Anne Gassel

Anne has been writing on MEW since 2012 and has been a citizen lobbyist on Common Core since 2013. Some day she would like to see a national Hippocratic oath for educators “I will remember that there is an art to teaching as well as science, and that warmth, sympathy and understanding are sometimes more important than policy or what the data say. My first priority is to do no harm to the children entrusted to my temporary care.”

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