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Many MARE members have been asked to sign a petition in support of the “Raise Your Hand for Kids” (RYH4K) initiative.  This campaign would place an issue on the November 2016 general election ballot to increase the state’s tobacco tax.  The revenue generated by this tax would help support early childhood programs in communities throughout the state.

However, “RYH4K” also allows the new tobacco tax funds to be sent to private or parochial schools.  This is accomplished by using language which states that, “Distributions of funds under this amendment shall not be limited or prohibited by the provisions of Article IX, section 8.”  The language is specifically designed to circumvent the Blaine Amendment, which is part of our state constitution.

In addition, “RYH4K” contains language that attempts to pull the education community into debates regarding stem cell research, abortion, and other hot-button issues that we want to avoid.

It should be noted that “RYH4K” is supported by Big Tobacco.  It seems unusual that Big Tobacco would support a tobacco tax.  It makes more sense, however, when it is understood that “RYH4K” ALSO includes language to help major tobacco brands drive up the price of their low-cost competitors.

The mission of the Missouri Association of Rural Education (MARE) is to support rural schools.  While rural schools would certainly benefit from additional funds for early childhood education, “RYH4K” is not the way to accomplish that goal.

“RYH4K” circumvents part of our constitution, unnecessarily involves educators in political controversy, and helps Big Tobacco eliminate its lower-cost competition.

MARE OPPOSES the “Raise Your Hands for Kids” petition.

Funding for early childhood education is very important, but should not be driven by Big Tobacco and other political interests.

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