Please Ask First Before Using Students as Props for a Statewide Tax Hike

Perhaps you saw this week’s news that Colorado state senator Rollie Heath and several advocacy groups are “pushing ahead” with a proposal that would take more from wage-earners, investors and consumers all over the state to finance K-12 and higher education:

The plan would raise state personal and corporate income tax rates to 5 percent from the current 4.63 percent. The state portion of sales taxes would go from 2.9 to 3 percent.

The additional revenue could be used only for public schools and the state’s higher ed system and couldn’t be used to supplant existing funding. The measure sets 2011-12 spending for schools and colleges as a floor….

The most interesting part of the story is not the predictable 5-year, $3 billion proposal itself, which so far has had trouble gaining traction among education establishment and business groups. Instead, not only did Senator Heath proclaim the tax increase proposal was “for the children,” but he also propped a classroom of Douglas County 4th graders behind him to drive the point home. As Kelly at WhoSaidYouSaid points out, there is a little problem with that:

Yes, you might want to get parents’ permission first. As a result, the teacher apparently has had to go back and apologize to parents for poor judgment, and district officials had to call TV news stations to keep them from airing footage of the kids. But the question is whether anyone among Senator Heath, his staff, or the advocacy groups bothered to ask if parents approved. The fact that the class just happened to be at the State Capitol on a class field trip probably answers it.

A very instructive and eye-opening moment for some. From time to time you’ll see school choice and reform groups with young students at their media events, but only with parental approval. As an interesting contrast to Monday’s press conference, though, has anyone seen the Douglas County school board or district staff use students in any such fashion to promote the groundbreaking new choice scholarship program? With or without parental permission?

Props to Douglas County. But shame on the tax hike crowd for using kids as a different kind of prop. Whether it comes to using students in a media event or taking teachers’ money for political causes, some people just seem to have a hard time Asking First.