Blunt uses campaign money for latest visit

Thursday, August 23, 2007

On Wednesday, Gov. Matt Blunt watched Jefferson Elementary School fourth graders working to determine whether cicadas they found outside were male or female. The students in Russell Grammer's class were also looking at earthworms through microscopes and using hand-held computers to play a math game.

Blunt used the visit to promote his record as a friend of education, touting the increased school funding provided by his administration and a new formula for distributing money that has sent hundreds of thousands of additional dollars to Cape Girardeau schools.

For Blunt, it was at least the eighth visit to Southeast Missouri -- and the sixth to Cape Girardeau -- since May 31. The trip was part of a statewide education tour, with the costs of his travel, Blunt said, being borne by his re-election campaign and not Missouri taxpayers.

Blunt began his day at the Veterans of Foreign Wars Convention in Kansas City. He said he had five official events on his calendar and one political event, so he put the entire cost of the journey on his campaign's tab.

Asked about his frequent visits -- and whether polls showed him in trouble in the region -- Blunt said politics is not a consideration.

"We don't schedule based on polls," Blunt said.

Blunt is enjoying slightly better poll numbers than he did for the first two years of his administration. The most recent Survey USA poll shows him with a 42 percent approval rating, down from 48 percent in July but above the mid-30 figures he had endured in 2005 and 2006.

"Cape Girardeau is a dynamic community," Blunt said. "It is an important part of the state, it is important to me, and it is great to be down here."

Sen. Jason Crowell, R-Cape Girardeau, accompanied Blunt and noted he made frequent visits to the area while secretary of state from 2001 to 2005.

In Grammer's science class, Blunt engaged in some hands-on learning, holding an earthworm as one student prepared a microscope. But he balked at taking hold of the class python.

The state is making big investments in education, Blunt said, but needs to do more to promote math, science and technology education.

Test scores show that fourth graders, such as those in Grammer's class, do well in science and math, but that achievement falls off in later years.

The beginning, Blunt said, will be $1 million of grants for programs at schools around the state. "It is very targeted funding to address a very real challenge," Blunt said.

rkeller@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 126

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