Thursday, February 26, 2009

Stimulus Taking Education Choice Away?

Do you ever wonder why thing always go one step forward and three steps back? That is all I can think of these days. So, the economy is in the dumps. The government is throwing out stimulus money left and right. Now what do they want to do? Take educational options away from children! Not only will these children have to pay for this spending later on, but many of them will be trying to do this with a sub par educational background. What sense does this make?!
According to, the House approves a $410 billion spending bill, while eliminating school vouchers in DC.
Democrats also inserted a provision into the bill to end a program that allows students in the District of Columbia to use federal funds to attend private schools of their choice. Boehner, who helped establish the program as part of a political bargain several years ago, called the move "hideous."

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Is it Jealousy?

I know jealousy is a negative feeling to have, nonetheless, I face it today. I live in Missouri, and while I love and appreciate this amazing place, I know there are states out there with virtues I wish my home state would possess.
This is taken from the Examiner:

Shopping for Charter Schools

February 17, 5:33 AM
by Karin Piper, Colorado Charter Schools Examiner
Is a charter school a good fit for your family? If so, which one in your community may be the best fit?
The Indystar reports on the Charter School Community Fair at the Indianapolis Artsgarden, which allows parents to peruse area charter schools in search of those answers.

Dozens of parents picked up literature and interviewed staff from the 17 alternative public schools in the city, searching for the best matches for their children for the 2009-10 school year.
Sponsored by Mayor Greg Ballard, the first-of-its-kind fair allowed parents to supplement their research on the schools with one-stop shopping convenience.

What a fantastic idea! Answering whether or not a charter school is right for your family or not, may be difficult if you don’t know which one of the 150+ unique charter schools you are speaking of. So why not make a list of what you are looking for in a school?
One parent in the Indystar article says she is searching for “focus on academics but also a broader selection of extracurricular options and a diverse student body.” While another expresses her son's needs for a program strong in math and the arts.
Wish lists are also often inclusive of criteria such as class sizes, student/teacher ratio, scheduling, graduation rates, SAR ratings, academic performance, and so on. Customize the list to suit your child's needs.
To my knowledge, there is not a charter school community fair, such as the one mentioned above, scheduled in Colorado in the near future. But don’t let that discourage you from doing your homework now. Visit the Colorado League of Charter School Finder for the schools near you. It’s a great place to begin your research. You will find that charter schools are like snowflakes, and there are not two which are identical. The goal is to find if and which one is right for your kids.
Remember, regardless of which school you choose (private, traditional, magnet, charter, homeschooling), you are exercising a parent’s right to school choice.

I look forward to the day Missourians statewide can go school-shopping for our children.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Missourians Should Be Outraged!

Ban on sale of St. Louis schools stirs anger

By David Hunn

ST. LOUIS — When leaders of the St. Louis Public Schools prepared to sell a slew of old school buildings a year ago, they moved to ban a few businesses from buying. They barred liquor stores, landfills, distilleries, as well as shops that sell "so-called 'sexual toys.'"

They also blackballed charter schools.

Now, as the school board debates closing as many as 29 more buildings in the shrinking city district, and as new charter schools search desperately for space, a swell of anger is rising up against that restriction.

Legislators have readied resolutions in Jefferson City asking the district to remove the ban. Pro-charter and school-choice groups have sent around press releases. Residents worry about the empty buildings that will rot their neighborhoods.
And charter school leaders continue to grumble that they are public schools and should be able to use public buildings.

"It's not about getting anything for free," said Aaron North, director of the Missouri Charter Public School Association. "Charter schools just want to use those buildings to educate children."

City schools board member and CEO Rick Sullivan said the board will likely revisit the subject, with all this recent hoopla.

But, on further discussion, he chuckles a little. It's not like this is an unusual restriction, he says, in the business world. Companies often bar sales to direct competitors.

And, according to the district, that's exactly how this restriction got started.


Leaders of the St. Louis Public Schools aren't sure whether they had a written policy before 2007 that banned charter schools from district buildings.

But, with charters booming — taking students and dollars from the district for the last decade — charter school leaders say there was certainly an unwritten rule.

"We tried to buy three," said Susan Uchitelle, board member at Confluence Academy, a charter school with three campuses and 2,700 students in St. Louis.

"We finally just gave up," Uchitelle said. "It was made very clear they weren't going to sell to us. They'd show them to us. They'd let us walk through them. But then they'd take them off the market."

Then, in April 2007, developer Sam Glasser engineered the purchase of King Tri-A school, on North Kingshighway, with no hint as to his intentions.

The district says he passed the building to Imagine Schools, a national company that starts and runs charters across the country. Glasser says he was acting on behalf of Imagine all along. Regardless, district leaders weren't happy.

"They wrote a letter to my law firm saying you're not supposed to do that," Glasser said Monday.

And the next fall, Imagine opened its Academy of Careers Middle School there.

That year, St. Louis Public Schools chief operating officer Deanna Anderson contacted district lawyers and asked for a new sale contract, with a deed restriction barring sales to charter schools for 100 years.

The board approved the new contract at the end of 2007.


Now, Anderson says, the district has six properties on the market for more than $7 million, not including 15 others that had previously been closed and mothballed.

Meanwhile, charter schools continue to multiply.

There are 17 campuses in the city now, serving 9,500 students, or about one-quarter of the city school population, and charter leaders expect eight more to open by the fall of 2010.

Of those, six are still looking for school buildings — including two that plan to open in the fall.

"It's still hard to find a place for your schools," said Rhonda Broussard, executive director of St. Louis Language Immersion Schools, set to open this fall. "The consequences to us are largely monetary. It means we need to raise more money and spend more money in order to have a viable school facility for our students."

Broussard said she could buy an old St. Louis Public Schools building for between $800,000 and $1.5 million. But converting nonschool buildings? $2 million to $6 million, she said, state dollars that could go to the classroom.

The topic is so difficult, she can't even bring it up with others who hope to start charters, she said, with whom she shares nearly everything else. "Facilities is taboo — because we know how hard they are to find."

Broussard says her school is nearly ready. Her French- and Spanish-immersion program is set. Families are already interested. She has even begun hiring. But her building?

"That's the only thing, at this point," she said, "that's uncertain."


But neighborhoods across the city see far more uncertainty.

State Rep. T.D. El-Amin, a Democrat who represents much of north St. Louis, recently toured the neighborhoods with closed — or possibly closing — schools.

El-Amin is backing a resolution to pressure the district to reverse its policy. He pointed out schools that shut long ago, and ones that just closed their doors, some separated by just a few streets.

He understands that the district has shrunk sharply over the last decade, and can't possibly keep all its schools open. But schools, in so many neighborhoods, he said, are often the only anchor left.

"I'm telling you," he said. "Some of these streets, you just hear shots, all night long."

Residents — on their porches, watching their children, washing their cars — stopped to lament the loss with him.

"You losing all these schools," said Lamarr Paige, 38, a father of six. "And all the buildings just sitting there, just sitting there!"

It's not only the vandalism, theft and violence a vacant building draws, they all said.

There's something deeper.

It can change a kid's perspective on all schools, El-Amin said, not just the vacant ones.

The kids look up, he said, and they don't see children on the playground, or in the classroom, faces peering out of the tall school windows.

They see grass growing up through cracks in the asphalt.

They see broken glass, stones, and target practice to come.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Missouri Ranking Below What It Should Be

From the Office of Representative Timothy Jones, 89th District:

Missouri ranks 28th in National Education Study as Students Fail Key Testing Measures

State legislative group targets new ways to fund education given tough economic times and state budget woes

Jefferson City, MO—A majority of students in Missouri public schools failed to meet proficiency levels in fourth- and eighth-grade mathematics and reading, and SAT and ACT scores stagnated, despite decades-long increases in public spending, according to a new report by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).

Using nationally recognized test results, the ALEC Report Card on American Education ranked the 50 states and the District of Columbia accordingly, one being the best and 51 the worst. Minnesota placed first in the unique ranking, Washington, D.C. last, and Missouri 28.

“Missouri students are barely above the national average in test scores, and they are well below national proficiency levels. This is unacceptable,” said Rep. Tim Jones (R-District 89). “The high cost and lackluster results of Missouri public education can be curbed by common-sense reforms rooted in accountability and choice. Such programs have proved cost-effective and successful in states across the country and popular among parents and students.”

The report also provides extensive data from 1987-88 to 2007-08 on state and federal funding, school resources, graduation rates, GED completion rates, and school-choice initiatives, including tax credit, scholarship, and charter school programs—alternatives to public education ALEC supports. With the federal administration expected to ramp up education spending through a host of new public programs, the evidence is undeniably clear: Further government funding does not produce corresponding results.

“If legislators are concerned about funding public education, not to worry,” said Jeff W. Reed, director of ALEC’s Education Task Force. “States across the country have proved that through education reforms rooted in freedom and accountability, more can be done with less. But it is up to state lawmakers to give parents and students the opportunity to choose what works best for them in securing a promising future.”

About ALEC

The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) is the nation’s largest nonpartisan, individual membership organization of state legislators, with more than 2,000 state legislative members from all 50 states, and 78 former members serving in the U.S. Congress. Its mission is to advance the Jeffersonian principles of free markets, individual liberty, and limited government.