The soccer moms are in an uproar again.
They’ve mobilized the minivan brigade over the threat of the Kansas Legislature cutting funding to Parents as Teachers. Rep. Patty Mast, an Emporia Republican, suggested slicing $7.2 million from the program in a proposal to the House Social Services Budget Committee. A divided committee agreed 4-3 to forward a recommendation for the cut. A hearing on the program is set for Thursday.
Parents as Teachers “helps organizations and professionals work with parents during the critical early years of their children’s lives — from conception to kindergarten,” according to its website.
I am still waiting to hear what the program does to assist children in the womb, but it’s nice that the organization believes a child is worthy prior to leaving the birth canal. On that, we can agree, but the organization and its supporters lose me when they suggest the sky will fall without the programming or that the only way Parents as Teachers can continue to exist is through taxpayer funding.
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Legislators must cut spending to fill a gaping multimillion-dollar budget hole. It only makes sense to look at programs that, while enjoyed by many, aren’t a necessity.
It troubles me to have to explain this, but when my budget is short, I have to prioritize according to wants and needs. This means I’ll consider cutting cable before selling my car. I like cable. I want cable. But do I need it? No. I don’t really like my car. Driving isn’t that pleasurable, but I need wheels so I can get to my job.
In the state’s budget, Parents as Teachers is cable television, but the stroller-pushing set doesn’t get it.
The soccer moms also appear confused as to how the legislative process works. One of their efforts to curtail the Parents as Teachers cuts is a MoveOn.org petition. Signing an Internet petition demanding change is about as effective as sending me your email address.
The über-liberal MoveOn.org website exists to collect email addresses and data. It doesn’t actually effect change. But send me your email addresses, and a little cash.
I can draft a strongly worded letter as well as just about anyone, including the brain trust at MoveOn.org. And, I note I have that ability despite no federal- or state-funded intervention teaching my mother how to teach me. I was long past toddler-stage when Parents as Teachers became a thing in Kansas.
For decades, Kansas did not have a formalized Parents as Teachers program. It’s only in the last 25 years that the group has been training parents and formulating curricula for toddlers. Somehow, toddlers pre-1990, yours truly included, survived and thrived without the organization.
Rather than post on Facebook and sling mud via Twitter, the soccer mom contingent would be wiser to put their money where their mouths are. By money, I don’t necessarily mean cold, hard cash.
There is no reason that local Parents as Teachers groups can’t organize fundraisers to make up some of the difference should a funding cut occur.
At first glance, it looks like it would be impossible to raise $7.2 million with a few bake sales. But that number is a statewide figure. Divided between the more than 390 public school districts in Kansas, that equates to a little more than $18,000 per school district. A lot, to be certain, but not impossible to raise given a motivated community of like-minded individuals. Communities will typically rally around educational concerns.
Consider, for example, Edgerton’s Bank of Knowledge, the Edgerton branch of the Johnson County Library. Edgerton citizens first lobbied the county to supply a library. When that didn’t happen, the community rallied to find a location, renovate the building and supply some of the books. That’s but one example. There are many, many others.
Where there’s a will, there’s definitely a way. But it requires more than signing a petition on the Internet. It takes hard work, innovation and the willingness to do some of the work yourself.
As much as I hate to watch people beg for government assistance, there are other sources of taxpayer funding that can be tapped to assist in maintaining local Parents as Teachers organizations.
Organizers can also look to local school funding. School districts already provide some funding to their local Parents as Teachers programs. That’s one place to start, especially since almost every school district in Johnson County recently approved increases in local option budget authority.
Concerned citizens can and should look beyond the cold, stiff hands of the bureaucracy, though. If the Parents as Teachers program is as beloved as social media posts suggest, they should have no problem finding donors.
The minivan brigade should mobilize and volunteer their own time to raise funds for the program. If they are unwilling, it should die.
Freelance columnist Danedri Herbert writes in this space once a month.