It’s amazing how often government seeks solutions for problems that don’t really exist. Or at least, shouldn’t exist.
For example, there is legislation pending in the Illinois General Assembly that would allow middle school and high school trumpet players to be excused from school if they are playing Taps at a military funeral.
The bill, sponsored by state Rep. Don Moffitt, R-Gilson, was inspired by Jack Bumann.
Bumann is a senior at Alwood High School in Woodhull. According to a story by Peoria Public Radio, Bumann has played Taps at the funerals of about two dozen fallen soldiers. The senior says it has an impact on him. "It really, it hits you when you hear it. You realize what it means and how many times it’s been played for how many different people and it's just part of the nation’s history I guess.”
The story doesn’t go into why this patriotic volunteerism by a high school senior requires state legislation. It would seem that any school district would be proud to have a student devote their time to such a noble cause. Assuming a student asks permission and explains why they will be absent, is there any reason a school district shouldn’t let such a student be excused from classes?
Schools have a lot of latitude in letting students be excused from classes. It’s fairly common when students are involved in sports or other extracurricular activities. Students are excused from classes when they are ill, when they visit prospective colleges and for a whole host of other reasons. It’s probably fair to say that unless a student abuses the privilege, excused absences are fairly plentiful.
School districts also have a lot of power, as they should, in setting the school calendar. Each district can pretty much determine, within certain parameters, when school starts and ends, and which holidays will be observed. Schools are also given wide latitude to call off school during bad weather. Again, that’s as it should be. The last thing the state needs is legislation determining when it’s too dangerous for students to attend school.
What’s not clear is why Moffit’s legislation is necessary. I’m sure Moffitt’s motives are honorable, but do we really need legislation that basically endorses common sense? If school districts need that much guidance from the state, there’s something fundamentally wrong.
Moffitt’s legislation, unsurprisingly, received unanimous support in the House and is now headed to the Senate. It’s hard to imagine any politician voting against the idea of high school trumpeters honoring fallen veterans. Gov. Bruce Rauner will probably sign the bill.
The bill will do little harm. However, it also won’t really do much good. It will just sit on the books, another example of a needless law.
Bumann is apparently a remarkable young man who understands the importance of using his talent to honor others. That sort of volunteerism should be saluted. We can assume he’s a decent student, probably the type who makes up any assignments he misses from playing at funerals.
It appears he should be honored for his willingness to help out.
But we don’t need a state law mandating excused absences for such activities. First, that sort of decision should be left up to school officials. They know best the circumstances involved. Second, unless there are overwhelming reasons, any school official that makes it difficult for students to be involved in such activities should have his or her ability to supervise a school questioned.
Common sense isn’t as common as it should be. But government should quit spending time on legislation that has no reason for existing.