Tuesday, December 18, 2007

School Choice Making Its Way

The recent statewide vote in Utah got my hopes up, only temporarily though. I thought it was going to pass but I was unfortunately mistaken. However, it did not squash my hopes for the rest of the country. I still believe school choice will help the schools and definitely help the children. Missouri may get there sooner than I thought. According to The Joplin Globe's article "Proposal Would Increase Missouri School Funding":

Another issue that may surface in the 2008 legislative session is school choice.
Rep. Cynthia Davis, R-O'Fallon, has submitted a bill that would allow parents of private-school or home-schooled students to be reimbursed their school property taxes.

The article also discussed Governor Blunt's plan for funding increases in education.
Although this legislation piece is not school choice for every child, it is a step in the right direction. The article also points out the Missouri National Education Association (MNEA) is against school choice, which is nothing new to hear of from a teacher's union. My hope is that the MNEA and other opposing organizations will step away from the organization's bureaucracy and look for what is best for the children.

Monday, December 17, 2007

There is no Secret we Need Change!

Yesterday's Columbia Daily Tribune gave me hope that other people are thinking what I am thinking. It first pointed out that our education program is under distress. Something drastic needs to change to help in order to create an educational program that actually works. The article discusses the changes that may be occurring in Missouri and how these changes can positively affect our educational dilemmas. Hank Waters, from the Columbia Daily Tribune:

The argument for increased competition will be irresistible, but rather than bring demise, increasing options for students can strengthen and improve public education.

In Columbia, where our local schools are better and better funded than average, change will come slower. In the nation's worst schools, like the ones in Washington, D.C. and St. Louis, parents are desperate and alternatives will arrive more quickly.

Living in rural areas poses different obstacles for education than ones faced in urban areas. There are few schools around, but we still do not have a choice. My daughter excels at her school, but her brother could use a school with a different teaching atmosphere. Our district, Missouri, and the Nation need a reform and I hope it happens soon. Many children are falling through the cracks and that is devastating. These children will deal with this for the rest of their lives, and believe it or not, so will we.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

An Educated Guess

As tax season looms, those of us who say “ouch” every year should be pleased that Columbia School District is no longer wasting money suing taxpayers. From: Columbia Daily Tribune.

Janese Heavin of the Columbia Daily Tribune writes:
“Either David Ballenger doesn’t plan to seek re-election or he needs a new campaign manager. Ballenger last night joined the rest of the board in removing the district from the funding lawsuit -- but not before making it clear that he wasn’t doing it for his
constituents. It started when Tom Rose suggested that the board represent its patrons, many of whom have said they do not want to spend any more tax dollars on litigation against the state. Michelle Gadbois raised that same concern to me prior to the meeting, saying she wants voters to trust that board members are good stewards of tax dollars. But Ballenger quickly shot the notion down, saying he will “not be held hostage” by the public. “If we think” getting out of the lawsuit “is best for the district, that’s one thing,” he said. “But I don’t think we ought to make the decision based on whether a levy is going to pass in April.” “I would have never voted to join it in the first place,” Rose countered. Ballenger, who is up for re-election this year, was on the board in 2003 when he and other members voted to join the funding lawsuit.”

Avail yourselves of the democratic process, Columbians, and demonstrate the difference between representing a group of people and being “held hostage” to Mr. Ballenger. Ultimately, though, even he voted against Columbia continuing in the lawsuit.

The vote by the Columbia Board of Education was unanimous that the school district discontinue their involvement in Missouri’s school funding adequacy trial. I think this is the second best move—right next to not having participated in the first place. Many of the board members realized and voiced their concerns about the merit of the case and about using tax money wisely.

Taxes, in my mind, take a backseat to education. But there’s only so much (literally, constitutionally) that you can tax folks. The limited resource of funding forces us to say “is that the best possible use for that money?” If it’s not, then school boards have a moral imperative to examine the issue and redirect the money. Columbia fulfilled that imperative this week, and I can almost guarantee that kids will be better educated if you put the money into the classroom instead of the courtroom.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Q & A

What’s worse than a worm in your Apple?

A: Two worms in your Apple.

Q: What’s worse than two worms in your apple?

A: School Finance litigation.

I’ve always liked that as a set-up for a joke. But this is no joke. Mike Podgursky, an economist and expert witness in Missouri’s school funding trial argues against Columbia’s involvement in Sunday’s Columbia Daily Tribune.

Major points of absurdity that he points out:

As many districts drop out of this suit, Columbia’s share of the legal fees grows.

The resounding defeat in Circuit Court leaves virtually no hope that a State Supreme Court judge will radically reverse the situation.

Even if Columbia miraculously wins, the district stands to potentially lose money since they receive some of the highest spending in the state.

Now, I hadn’t thought about this last one, but Podgursky is right: Hancock Amendment implications are such that a state tax increase would be difficult if not impossible. Therefore, Columbia and the other school districts are asking that billions of dollars come out of other state programs with potentially catastrophic results. I think Columbia is beginning to see the light, but it needs to come up again and again and again until they stop spending tax dollars on lawyers.

The Promised Land of Education

Voters have spoken, and district ready for transition to begin
By Kelly Evenson | Kelly.evenson@examiner.net

Now that voters in both the Independence and Kansas City school districts have approved the transfer of seven schools, the real work is beginning. "This is one of the largest annexations in the history of the state," said Independence Superintendent Jim Hinson. "It is a pretty significant undertaking." Next summer, seven schools currently in the Kansas City School District will become a part of the Independence School District. These schools include Mount Washington, Sugar Creek, Three Trails, North Rock Creek/Korte and Fairmount elementary schools, Nowlin Middle School and Van Horn High School.

From the Blue Springs Examiner

Voting is wonderful. Russia, Venezuela, Iraq, Cuba, Chile and the list keeps going of countries where voting has been relegated to a shadow of its original meaning. But as Americans, we enjoy some of the best individual freedoms and security of expression, and some of the most control over what our government does. It may not always seem like that, but it is a great gift from our Framers and Founders.

Voters in Kansas City and Independence recently voted to let seven schools be annexed from Kansas City to Independence. What is significant about this vote is that Kansas City voters had to choose to let the schools go. {Just so you know, I’m thinking about Moses telling the Pharaoh to “Let my people go”, with Moses played by Independence School District and Pharaoh played by Kansas City. Major plot differences include a decided lack of plagues}

But Kansas City voters chose overwhelmingly to let the schools go, even though they would lose revenue—without a plague of locusts swaying their opinion. Kansas City is beginning to understand that no child deserves a sub-par education, and if they can get it better somewhere else, they should have the option to do that. The aptly-named Independence district accepting these ambulant schools will be a sort of trial in the wilderness without a process in place and tested for this kind of migration. Redistricting is difficult and resource consuming endeavor and it is not practical to redistrict every time a school district drops the ball.

We have parents who wanted a change in Kansas City. We have successful districts that understand that the responsibility of bringing poorly performing schools up to snuff is easier than the economic and social impact of failing schools. We see voters in Kansas City who would not benefit from the redistricting saying we understand—students deserve this option. That says to me that parents want choice, and they need a more expedient way to get that.

Public School Funding, SLPS-style


“The Missouri department of education is investigating whether millions of dollars are owed to area charter schools — and whether that money ended up, instead, in the coffers of the St. Louis Public Schools.

Charter leaders estimate they were shorted more than $7 million last year, or roughly 15 percent of their state funding.

Schools are paid for each student enrolled, according to a formula.

Until this year, charter schools — free, public schools run by independent boards outside of district control — got their state money through the St. Louis Public Schools. Now the state pays them directly.

St. Louis school leaders said they paid what was owed and kept the rest.

Some charter administrators said last year was tough.

"Having only 250 kids, every dollar is important, every nickel," said Marshall Cohen, director of Lift for Life Academy, a charter school in the Soulard neighborhood. His school stands to gain roughly $325,000.

"I believe we didn't get all of our money."

But Thursday, at a special administrative board meeting, St. Louis Public Schools CFO Enos Moss told the board that charter schools were using a faulty formula — in fact, he thinks they're getting more than they should.

"These are not dollars that we believe should be paid to the charters," he said.

It is unclear if all 15 current charter school campuses believe they were underpaid. Gerri Ogle, associate commissioner of finance for the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, said the state received at least one complaint from an area charter school.

Her staff will now look at the dollars sent to all the schools. She doesn't know how long that will take, nor how much money is involved.

But, she said, if the St. Louis district indeed underpaid the charters, the district would have to reimburse them.”

Public School Funding, SLPS-style

"These are not dollars that we believe should be paid to the charters," he said.

Interesting statement. I can’t speculate on whether SLPS intentionally kept Charter-school money. What this does bring to light is a complete lack of organization. Charter schools ARE public schools, and any money that was kept at SLPS that was intended for a Charter kept those schools from doing their job.

Enos Moss acts as if Charters in the area are scalping too much from the state coffers, when in fact they provide the same service that public schools do: they educate children for free, and for every child that goes to a Charter, the public system is relieved from the associated cost. The amount of money coming from the state is PER CHILD, not per school, not per type of school.

What’s more, we’re talking about the education of children. If, through neglect, mismanagement or spite, more money went to some children and less to others, SLPS failed in its primary mission, which is to “improve the achievement of students in every classroom and in every school.” [from website].

Jeanne Allen, President of the Center for Education Reform [on http://charterschoolreform.org/news/04112005.htm] says,

"The districts and the folks who are threatened by their failure want us all to believe that money somehow is leaving the system, but the system is not where the money is supposed to go. The money is supposed to go to schools to educate students. So the reason that money is moving to different public schools is because parents are choosing to send their kids there. The reason they are sending their kids there is because they are unhappy with the quality of the [St. Louis Public Schools]."

Also ironic that SLPS is a huge funder of the school funding Adequacy Trial saying that the state isn’t giving them enough money when they aren’t passing along the money that belongs to other schools.

Kids Face Struggles Everyday…

Growing up is not easy. Struggling to find a niche can be hard for a child. When parents move, sometimes the children must transfer schools if they moved out of the district. This can be a rough adjustment for some children, while others it is a smooth transition. Foster children face many obstacles in their lives. They are in and out of foster homes, floating through the system, all the while trying to comprehend why they are no longer with their families. With all the struggles they face, wouldn’t it be nice if they did not have to transfer schools when they transfer foster homes. A bill, School Choice for Foster Kids Act, is being introduced by Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) that would allow for this. According to Bachmann the act “would give states the flexibility to make younger foster children eligible for education vouchers – currently designated for students 16 to 23 years old – through the Chafee Foster Care Independence Program. It would allow foster parents to send a child to his or her original school or to choose a school that can undertake the unique challenges their foster child may face.”

This is a great bill and I hope it passes. This is a step in the right direction. Children face a wide array of difficulties growing up. Parents are usually the ones who can chose the best for their children, so why should all parents not be able to choose where their child gets educated?

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

All Parties for Education Reform

The political arena has many hot button issues. These issues, whether they are health spending, defense spending, taxes, Medicare, social security, or education; are all concerns about most Americans. We elect our officials because we agree with their views on the issues most important to us. While some issues are thought of as more republicans or more democrats views, there are some issues stances that cross over party lines. Education reform is one issue that does not only fit in with only one party. The notion of school choice, once thought of as a republic idea, is now an issue that both sides are directing their attention to. The Democrats for Education Reform
realize the schools are in dire need for help, and they see school choice as one way to accomplish this. Not all Republicans are for school choice either. Giuliani said “there's not as much support even among Republicans for school choice as one might think”.

Bottom line is that school choice should not be seen as a party issue. It should be seen as an education issue, one that needs to be addressed now. Thousands of children across the country are attending failing schools. The children are the ones that matter here.

School Choice is for the Kids:

Club for Growth PAC Praises Giuliani on School Choice

"The Club for Growth PAC praised Rudy Giuliani for promoting school choice yesterday in North Carolina and calling for less government involvement in the country's education system.

Giuliani deemed the American education system “a massive government monopoly of the worst kind.” Instead of increased federal involvement, Giuliani called for school choice, saying “the power has to be put in the hands of the parents to select the schools.”

“Giuliani’s call for competition and choice in education is a refreshing contrast to the Democratic candidates and certain Republicans who advocate a huge federal government role in education," said Club for Growth President Pat Toomey. Mike Huckabee and Ron Paul are the only Republican candidates who oppose private school choice. Huckabee is even pushing for a federally mandated and funded arts and music curriculum.

In contrast, Giuliani refused to kowtow to the education monopoly. When asked how school choice would help reach out to public school teachers during the FOX News GOP debate, Giuliani said, “Well, I love teachers, but I really care about the kids more.”

“Mayor Giuliani understands that more federal involvement is the problem, not the solution,” Mr. Toomey said. “In New York City, Giuliani fought for private school choice against the liberal establishment and is showing the same mettle on the national stage.”"

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Reform Our Schools

This is a great deal of debate across the country and right here in our own state as parents seek choice in educating their children. The Center for Education Reform combats 9 lies about school choice that educrats lobby every time their power structure is threatened by citizens exercising their rights to the education promised them and guaranteed by our laws.

While the city schools are the most highly funded, they systematically have been failing our children and threatening their future prospect of gainful employment instead throwing children out after all the years spent in classrooms only to become frustrated dependents on the public's continued support. Rather than generating new young professionals who can support our local economies, we are creating the next generation of convicts, low-income minimum wage untrained individuals who cannot support themselves and have not been inspired or trained to advance themselves professionally. Economists point out that failing to educate our next generation is costly and contraintuitive in today's global economy. Rather than producing young adults who will go forward and contribute to the economy, we are spitting them out of our system unprepared and with no hope for their future.

High School Drop Outs In America cost our economy GREATLY. The money is in place. We need to invest in new systems--new ways to educate and inspire young minds. Doing so now will yield much greater returns than continued support of a flawed and failing public education system. It is time to do some serious education refrom overhaul.

We need to look at school choice (charter schools, tax credits--let the money follow the child), merit pay for teachers, transparency of payments and budgets, virtual learning environments, improved support of special needs children, etc... There is much that could be done in an environment of true education reform and their is much evidence that parents and teachers seek reform.

Monday, November 26, 2007

A Competition Never Hurts

The Missouri Public Schools are not doing very well. The way I see it, the entire program is in need for a major overhaul. The education system is not something that only parents of children in failing schools have passion for. Education reform, school choice, and education spending are issues that most people pay attention to. Politicians make their view points very clear on these issues. Education is the one tool our children have to get access to a successful future.

Mike Huckabee, a presidential candidate says “We need to judge the success of our schools by the results we obtain, not the revenue we spend.” School spending does not dictate how well the schools are doing or how well they will do. Yet, there are many Missouri school districts that feel they need more money to improve, as seen in the school adequacy case. What the school system needs is an internal mechanism that pushes schools to improve.

School choice would not only help the parents by allowing them to decide where and how their children are being educated, but it would also make the schools strive to improve. The schools would have to compete in order to be appealing to the students and the parents. The schools would finally have a strong motive to improve; one they do not have now. Now, the schools will continue to get money, as long as there are children that live in those districts and people pay their taxes. There is no strong incentive for the school to improve, to excel. The children deserve better than average. They deserve only the best and now we have to work to give it to them.

Education Reform Needed Immediately

Missouri is facing hardships with the education program. There is no question there. Schools are unaccredited, children are failing in school, and graduation rates are not going through the roof. I do not live in a big town, yet I am devastated for the children who live in failing school districts. They are stuck in them with no where to go. Why people think that is the best thing for them is beyond me! The schools keep failing, yet some people are still against the idea of choice. Obviously, what we have is not working, so it is time to try something new.

Thankfully, my town happens to have a great high school. However, if they were like many other schools around Missouri, I would not know what to do. Parents should be able to chose where their children go to school. Why does it make sense that our address decides our children’s future?

People have been debating the Milwaukee Choice Program and it is not apparent the original study was inaccurate. Unfortunately, many people read it and believe the things it had to say. These inaccuracies are the very thing that is making the choice movement harder than it should be.

South Carolina is facing similar problems with education; their graduation rates are hovering around 50%. That means a little less than 50% of students are not graduating!

Is this not a red flag to everyone that we need to dramatically change the way education has been ran?

Dear Editor

Dear Editor:

The Columbia Tribune’s article “Voucher Movement Past its Prime” depicts the voucher struggle as one to give up on. However, vouchers are not the sole focus of this fight in Missouri and elsewhere.

Unfortunately, Utah’s state wide voucher program did not pass. This is not a reason to give up the crusade for better education. The Utah situation was negatively affected by unions telling falsifications about vouchers. This problem is not excusive to Utah; it is happening all over the country by anti-choice groups. This is a devastating problem, one in which the children suffer.

The choice movement is Missouri is not solely focused on vouchers; the focus is on issues such as allowing parents the right to chose their child’s education, ensuring better and more education options for all children, focusing on special needs issues, and virtual learning programs. These areas can help children find an education program that can meet their specific needs.

School reform needs to open its eyes to other options, and not keep trying things that continue to fail. Quality education providers are crucial to the children getting the best education they can, the education they deserve. Children in some districts suffer more than others and that is not fair to anyone. The unaccredited school districts need help now; they need choices now.

The article did acknowledge that children need “wider choices of education services”. That is what Missouri is aiming for as well. Missouri is striving to allow parents and the children have more options that fit their needs, allowing a child to transfer if need be. Unfortunately, this does not happen freely in Missouri. The St. Louis Public School district is unaccredited and many of those children are stuck in those failing schools. The devastating and detrimental effect this will have on those children needs to be addressed immediately.

Parents chose many things for their children through their lives, education choice should be their right.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Parents Must Hold Educrats Responsible for Educational Advancements

In the world of educational reform, it is time to place responsibility on those whom we look to for advancing our children's progress. Our current education monopoly (See excellent commentary,"NCLB?") does not empower administrators to hire and promote effective teachers nor release non-producing teachers. Nor does it support the rights of parents to choose the best education available on behalf of their children.

Missourians need to make themselves heard on the 'school choice' front. People in Kansas City have done so and parents and children will enjoy the benefits of a hard fought and victorious battle. The vote recently in Kansas City to release Indepence Schools from the Kansas City Public School system creates great momentum for the school choice movement. In Columbia, parents call for Columbia Public Schools to get out of CEE vs. MO, and instead get focussed on a broad-based strategy to advance public education.

Across our great nation, parents are finding ways to influence the monopolistic public school system. In Florida, the mayor of St. Petersburg ("Don't forget the poorest pupils" ) found out what other states and municipalities are learning. Parents want choice. Parents' first priority is a safe environment with dedicated teachers. In addition, they prefer their children's schools to be close to home. They also consider diversity important. This mayor calls upon citizens to "[Move] to a system where parents may choose to send their child to a school close to home...but it must not result in winners and losers." Of the many issues to consider, the mayor calls upon the parents to look at the system and cause the focus to be on parental choices and the rights of citizens for a "...a better public school system, and a better community."

Parents Must Hold Educrats Responsible for Educational Advancements

In the world of educational reform, it is time to place responsibility on those whom we look to for advancing our children's progress. Our current education monopoly (See excellent commentary,"NCLB?") does not empower administrators to hire and promote effective teachers nor release non-producing teachers. Nor does it support the rights of parents to choose the best education available on behalf of their children.

Missourians need to make themselves heard on the 'school choice' front. People in Kansas City have done so and parents and children will enjoy the benefits of a hard fought and victorious battle. The vote recently in Kansas City to release Indepence Schools from the Kansas City Public School system creates great momentum for the school choice movement. In Columbia, parents call for Columbia Public Schools to get out of CEE vs. MO, and instead get focussed on a broad-based strategy to advance public education.

Across our great nation, parents are finding ways to influence the monopolistic public school system. In Florida, the mayor of St. Petersburg ("Don't forget the poorest pupils" ) found out what other states and municipalities are learning. Parents want choice. Parents' first priority is a safe environment with dedicated teachers. In addition, they prefer their children's schools to be close to home. They also consider diversity important. This mayor calls upon citizens to "[Move] to a system where parents may choose to send their child to a school close to home...but it must not result in winners and losers." Of the many issues to consider, the mayor calls upon the parents to look at the system and cause the focus to be on parental choices and the rights of citizens for a "...a better public school system, and a better community."

Friday, November 23, 2007

Voice for Choice~Funding is NOT the issue!

The summer of '07 brought to light that Missouri indeed devotes enough funding to education (see CEE vs. State of Missouri). But that leaves many taxpaying citizens wondering why, if there's enough money out there, our schools are underperforming? Maybe the answer lies in HOW we spend the money we get and whether citizens are empowered with the CHOICE to seek out the eductation to which their children are entitled.

A great example of choice in the making is the recent resounding call by voters in a landfall victory in the Kansas City School District. 32,000 Missourians confirmed that Missouri parents and residents care about the performance of their local school district, after blowing out an election to transfer control of seven districts back to the local community. Voters overwhelmingly decided that transferring to their local district was best after nearly three decades of unanswered failure from the Kansas City Public School bureaucracy. The educrats wanted the system to continue with the status quo~but the parents did not.

Opponents of change like to attack vouchers and claim that voucher take money away from school districts that really need those funds. There is evidence however that vouchers do exactly the opposite. David Roland, of The Show Me Institute says in "Public Schools Improve! ", for all of the billions of dollars spent by public school systems nationwide in desperate efforts to improve their schools without disturbing the status quo, it was a low-cost choice program in Milwaukee (the city spends $12,000 per public school student, but only $6,500 per choice student) that has shown the most promise for improving public schools."

Mind you, vouchers are NOT where most of the work done in Missouri is centered. There is, however, much work being done in the area of giving parents the right to choose, expanding quality education options for students--especially those not being well-served by their current system: expanding providers, special needs education issues, virtual learning, etc. The education reform and school improvement discussion needs to be opened up to new ideas, quality providers and more efficient spending of tax dollars. While all of these options are being explored and vetted, parents with kids who are failing in unaccredited school districts need immediate support and better choices.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

A little choice goes a long way…

Save the Charters!

Dave Roland takes issue with my criticism of an effort to close "failing" charter schools in Ohio. He writes:

A fundamental principle of school choice is that some schools will succeed and endure, but others will do poorly and close.

I agree completely — but the mechanism that closes schools should be choice, not state fiat. If parents aren't happy with the failing charter schools, they can always send their kids back to the traditional public schools. But in the absence of the charters, the traditional public schools are for many families the only choice. If the charter schools are that bad, no one will send their kids there and the charter schools will close of their own accord.

This controversy illustrates one problem with evaluating schools based on standardized test scores. Parents might want their kids to attend a charter school, even if it doesn't improve their test scores. For example, they may feel that the charter school is safer or inspires their kids to be more creative.

So why am I always complaining about bad test scores at traditional public schools? Well, since many families don't have educational choices beyond the traditional public schools, I suspect that some of them would choose other schools if they had the chance. The bad scores hint that for families interested in academic achievement, traditional public schools would not be their first choice.

But if parents prefer charter schools to poorly performing public schools, why should we deny them that choice?

Posted by Sarah Brodsky at 03:22 PM in Education | Permalink

Sarah Brodsky reminds me that school choice is not only about failing schools, but about the right of parents to choose the appropriate school for their child. In fact, my younger brother chose a technical institute that was adjoined to our high school for some of his classes—not because of test scores, but because he had an interest in culinary arts that my parents and I encouraged him to pursue. I think if everyone examined their experiences, they would find small instances of choice that made a great deal of difference.

Test scores are significant and take a serious role in why school choice is a necessity, and how we compare progress between charters and public schools, but the real issue of school choice comes down to parents understanding the needs of their children better than a lumbering, many-tentacled school administration. It comes down to children as individuals with futures fertile with potential.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Opportunity Knocks--Is Anyone Home?

There's good news developing across the country as parents not only ask for, but actively work towards, improving the public educational system. However, in order to take advantage of opportunity, one must first recognize that opportunity exists.

Take the St. Louis Public School District, for example. In an interesting video on Deseg, Magnets and Charters, teachers union president, Mary Armstrong, asks for placement in magnet schools for black children who are on a waiting list while seats are still open--waiting for non-African-American children. Seats in the magnet schools schools are kept empty resulting from former deseg litigation requiring that 2 out of 5 seats are filled with non-African American students. So, parents who cannot get their African-American child into a magnet are requesting Charter School placement. Charter schools are under the state, not the city--so money is diverted from the city public schools to follow the children who make their way to charter schools--all to avoid the unaccredited city schools. The OPPORTUNITY exists to place children in higher performing magnet schools and yet those seats remain unclaimed--because of beuracracy.

Now, take a look at the Kansas City Public School District. The people in that area have been working very hard for years to improve their district. They recognized the opportunity to implement change and finally got it with a resounding vote. Parental choice prevailed in a HUGE way: After three decades of school district failure, over 32,000 voters made their local voice heard about giving 1,500 children a better choice, and nearly 24,000 of these voters voted for a better school (72%). While this win in Kansas City is significant, it is also helpful to put this situation in perspective relative to the crisis before the City of St. Louis. St. Louis City has nearly twice the amount of children trapped in a failing district whose parents cannot vote because they have no address. It is estimated that the City of St. Louis has 1,500 children (5%) who are homeless, and up to another 1,500 (5%) heavily-reliant on sheltered assistance.

Less than a year ago, a tough school superintendant was brought into the failing Kansas City School District. Though there is debate about his approach, at least he seems to have a plan. If his plan does not work, then there will be a state take-over like the one in the St. Louis Public Schools. Though a temporary board is in place for the St. Louis Public Schools, we have yet to receive any word of an actual plan for improvement. While we wait, children suffer. Children are trapped in unaccredited districts and are being refused entry to neighboring districts, though obligated by law (RSMo 167.31). The OPPORTUNITY exists for them to transfer, but since the law is not being enforced, the kids are stuck!

Certainly there is room for improvement. Improvement may require changing systems, policy, broad overhaul--things that will take time. But for the here and now, we have opportunties we fail to recognize--existing laws that were meant to work for kids but aren't being enforced.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Unaccredited schools

My daughter is in the St. Louis school district. Earlier this year, the State Board of Education unaccredited the schools in this district, because the schools were continuously declining in academic performance, and other concerns about financial issues and leadership issues. According to the law, the students within unaccredited districts are allowed to transfer to other schools in a neighboring county, such as St. Louis county schools. The SLPS must pay for those students and pay for transportation to these schools. However, I spoke with another mother and other schools turned her down. The problem is that the students are allowed to transfer, but there is no law that says the schools must accept these students.

Then I heard the SLPS have been coercing the other schools not to accept these students. So what are we supposed to do…just wait until the schools are better? Maybe by the time my daughter is in 11th grade, the schools will be better. Meanwhile, I am trying to do extra work with her at home, after I come home from my first job and before I leave for my second job. I accept and embrace that it is my child and I am her teacher as well. However, what am I paying taxes for? For her to attend a failing school apparently. I hope that this gets resolved and I can get her into a better school immediately.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

32,000 Missouri Voices On Transferring Out of Failed Schools

Missourians confirmed that Missouri parents and residents care about the performance of their local school district, after blowing out an election to transfer control of seven districts back to the local community. The Kansas City Public School system had fought the will of the parents for nearly three decades, but failed to carry even the Kansas City voting districts.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Clayton School District to Bill St. Louis Public Schools Tuition for Their Failure?

Several children now enrolled in the Clayton School District are now asking them to send St. Louis Public Schools the tab for their tuition. Their attorney alleges that state law requires the failed district to make the payment whenever they transfer from an unaccredited district. What about the other 30,000 children held hostage to poor results?

Friday, October 26, 2007

Districts with excess funding

I would like to draw attention to a recent article in the St. Louis Post Dispatch. This article discusses the surplus balance in Kirkwood school district. I read that article and was astounded! So many school districts are involved in a case suing the school for more money, and then there are districts, including many involved in the case, that have surpluses. There was another article recently about Columbia having excess money as well. How can districts use the taxpayers' money to sue the state for more money when they have money just floating around?

This should be a red flag to everyone living in a district that is still involved with the case. I don't really appreciate having higher property taxes, all so the money can be used to pay to sue our own state and I know I am not alone.

We need to urge our districts to pull out, and start using the money to educate our children!

Friday, October 19, 2007

Submitted by: matineeidol

Take a look at this video. This “You Paid for It” segment talks about the $229,000 taxpayers spent as of Jan ’07 on—wait for it—BlackBerries for 85 high-up school officials. I don’t have a BlackBerry. In fact, the only people I can think of who get a free PDA are ladies and gents from engorged, publicly-traded corporations like citiGroup.

That’s not all. KSDK shows school board members putting vacations on their expense accounts, not to mention countless instances of personal lawsuits.

As the saying goes, with friends like that…who needs a $4.6 million lawsuit against taxpayers? I may be cynical, but I usually believe that where corruption is visible, there is likely more below the surface. I wonder how much money would find its way to salaries for great teachers, the best textbooks and science class materials. I wonder how rich St. Louis Public School students’ experience would have been if board members had gotten the Samsung that comes free with your plan, and only used it for work.

For many kids, education is touch and go; one class or exercise or project can spark their interest. For my brother, it was a cooking class. I believe being able to find joy in a culinary arts program kept him in school and doing well. And that one class or teacher can be the difference between a drop-out and a college-bound graduate. So when I see waste from the school district, I also see waste of human potential.

That’s why this lawsuit against the state is so appalling. It asks Missourians to foot the bill for not only the legal fees (both sides), but also a huge expansion of the budget that has no accountability attached to it. Before this lawsuit even began, everyone should have been culling through their district budget and cutting out wasteful spending to see if the budget on hand (based on successful schools) is enough to adequately educate our kids.

And for all those reactionaries who say “but you can’t run our schools like a business,” newsflash: we already are.

PACs, Rex, and SMI

So, Rex Sinquefield started a few PACs…big deal. It’s not illegal and it is definitely not the first time this has happened either. PACs are started all the time to support issues and back certain politicians, what’s the difference?

His PACs are set up to increase information available, help people have an outlet to support a cause, donate to, and also a way to donate to causes he believes in, ones that others believe in as well. All of his PACs are geared towards specific issues, such as education and tax reforms.

The Show Me Institute does research on various issues, which back Sinquefield’s strong beliefs. While reading a few of these studies, it has become apparent to me that school choice really can make a difference in education and we need to give it a shot. It is obvious to me that Sinquefield does not want to “harm public schools”, as some people are putting it. Sinquefield really wants to help our schools and knows the only way to do that is through dramatic changes. We should all be jumping on the bandwagon and supporting such a worthy cause. The schools have not improved, so why do people think more money will help. I know that we need to do something radically different…Rex has got the right idea.

According to School Choice for Missouri, children who receive vouchers have statistically significant gains in test scores. Graduation rates increase, which leads to more successful and productive citizens, not to mention lower crime rates. Dropouts increase the unemployment rate, cost the state money for incarceration and Medicaid, and have other harmful effects on Missouri.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Education Alternatives

Submitted by: Diana

I think the public education system should be able to effectively educate all children in Missouri. Sometimes, there are cases in which the schools in a district may not be best suited for a child, such as the case with a special needs student. That student should still be able to get an education that will be catered to his or her needs. In some cases, there may be a school in a neighboring district that could do that, however, sometimes that is not the case. That child should be able to attend any school, even if it’s a private school. The state should allow credits for situations like this. Some may have a problem if the school is religious, but you know what, either the state spends some money to send a child to that school, or that child will not get a quality education.

It seems like a very easy problem to me…plain and simple…educate that child, whether it be by monks or nuns, every child deserves to learn.

Unaccredited School Parent

Submitted by Anonymous:

My child goes to a school inside the St. Louis Public School district. We have recently been unaccredited. I am at a loss for what to do now. The law says that my child can go to another school in a neighboring district, but there is no law that says any of those schools has to accept anyone new. The SLPS have told the other districts not to accept any of these students. What are we supposed to do now? And to make matters worse, I hear of a lawsuit going on around the state that is suing the State of Missouri for more money, and using taxpayers’ money to do so! Obviously, if we have schools that are being unaccredited, there is a much larger problem than money.

Call your superintendent, call your principals, call the State Board of Education and ask them to fix these problems without wasting any more of our money.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Mayor Slay Tells It Like It is on Charter Schools

So many people in St. Louis are tired of hearing about excuses for failing school districts. That’s why it is refreshing to hear our officials like Mayor Francis Slay demanding better performance from all institutions, including charter schools. Bottom line: parents remain victims of the system until they have and can exercise good choices for their child’s education.

Rudy speaks out on School Choice…

"I would give parents control over their education…”