Gainesville, Mo., is a small town tucked into the foothills of the Ozarks. It is home to about 800 people, in a county with a median income of $32,000. Each morning, a few hundred students wake up and go to Gainesville High, home of the Bulldogs, which sits next to the junior high and grade school on 61 acres, just east of town.
It’s a place not that different from hundreds of small towns across Missouri and thousands more across America, where public schools are more than just centers of their communities. They represent hope for the future, the key to grasping the next rung on the economic ladder — and the promise of a better life for our kids.
Communities like Gainesville help explain why Republicans and Democrats in Missouri recently came together to sustain my veto of a bill that would have reduced state funding for education by hundreds of millions of dollars each year. Even though Missouri already had some of the lowest taxes in the nation, House Bill 253 would have cut them further, lavishing most of its benefits on corporations and the wealthy at the expense of education and other public services.
House Bill 253 mirrored a trend we’ve seen nationwide. Despite the overwhelming consensus that an educated workforce is the key to a growing economy, states around the country have slashed support for public education in the name of a tax-cuts-at-any-cost orthodoxy. According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a total of 15 states cut per-student funding for public schools just this year.