Thursday, January 24, 2008

Working together for education

EduDiva (St. Louis blogger) brings up a great point: we have a decent amount of education options in St. Louis. The city has great private schools and many highly respected colleges to encourage students to continue their education. She makes the point that St. Louis likes options, and is pretty intent on supporting that. Perhaps that is because there is a necessity for other options when public schools are letting students down at a blistering rate. But unlike a lot of reporting on the subject that stops after stating the problem and pontificating that there should be a solution, EduDiva brings up some very salient solutions, like offering tuition tax credits as proposed by the Show-Me Institute and an aggressive plan for proliferation of Charter School in the city. She quotes a great series of 5 discussion-starters from Education Sector, all of which encourage opening up choices for St. Louis students in a responsible way.

This series of recommendations hints at one of the central issues I’ve noticed surrounding school choice, to wit: it is not an either/ or conversation but a question of “how much”. School choice opponents are not, in essence and in general, against school choice. Rather they are against possible downsides: how it would affect public schools, how it would burden healthy schools, and misconceptions, buzzwords, tax concerns. It seems to me that rather than both sides standing with their backs turned, an exchange of ideas and yes, even concessions may be in order. It would go something like this:

“What are your concerns?”

“Oh, thanks for asking. Here are a few.”

“Okay. Let’s work together.”

I know, it sounds like a Sesame Street sketch. But forming partnerships that, however unusual, can result in sincere, well-vetted policies. One thought in the study was Transition Aid for Facilities, not as stodgy as it sounds! It offers a trade between public schools and Charters, recognizing that operating costs stay the same even if students leave a public school. For St. Louis that has several empty facilities, aid to supplement a loss of some students would be given for access to space. That’s what I call a win-win, with the benefits for students. And there are many more where that comes from if conversations are about strengthening all educational options on the table for students.

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