Friday, May 22, 2009

School Choice Movement Faces Strong Opposition

The school choice movement is running into new obstacles, despite it's proven success. Reading the USA Today blog, I came upon an editorial that describes the downfalls with the current administration and it's stances on school choice. The Obama administration will allow the children currently in the DC Scholarship program to continue through graduation, it will not let more children grow and succeed in it.
School Choice Movement Faces Strong Opposition

So it was curious that when President Obama recently allowed 1,716 of Washington's neediest schoolchildren to keep, until graduation, the vouchers they use to escape their failed public schools for higher-quality private ones, he also closed the program to new applicants. All this occurred as the Education Department reported that voucher participants show superior skills in reading, safety and orderliness. The news was buried in an impenetrable study released without a news conference.

Why the ambivalence? Because teacher unions, fearing loss of jobs, have pushed most Democrats to oppose vouchers and other options that invite competition for public schools. Put another way, they oppose giving poor parents the same choice that the president himself — along with his chief of staff and some 35% of Democrats in Congress — have made in sending their children to private schools.

Vouchers have improved the math and reading of inner-city children from Dayton, Ohio, to Charlotte, N.C., various studies show. The Washington vouchers improved the reading of girls and younger kids by about half a school year, though results for other groups were iffier. Yet opposition is so fierce that few voucher experiments survive past the seedling stage.

So school choice is in fact helping these children learn better...given them a better shot at being productive and successful citizens. So why stop it? Teacher unions?

As an Education Department spokesman says, "The unions are not happy." But 20 million low-income school kids need a chance to succeed. School choice is the most effective way to give it to them.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Op-ed In Springfield News Leader

"Missouri Needs Education Reform Now", an opinion piece in the Springfield News Leader, once again shows the urgent need to reform education in Missouri! This is written by Joe Knodell, the state coordinator for the Missouri Education Reform Council:

The state legislature is currently considering school reform issues such as open enrollment and the expansion of charter schools. Performance pay, or merit pay as it is sometimes called, is in the mix, as well.

Missouri is behind many of our neighboring states when it comes to implementing school reform. I could list the statistics that show Missouri lags behind in student achievement and how the USA stacks up against other developed countries in math and science -- but these facts have been in front of us and in the media for quite some time.

We have a new president who advocates reform and is promoting performance pay and charter schools. Time will tell whether President Obama will match the rhetoric with results. New Secretary of Education Arne Duncan also has the credentials of a reformer because of his past work in Chicago.

With all of the momentum for school reform going forward, why is it so hard to pass legislation addressing our failing schools and the need to increase student achievement? Lawmakers from other states that have enacted education reform, including Arkansas and Iowa, can testify that it was not easy. Teachers' unions and the education establishment as a whole do not embrace reform and usually oppose it vigorously. That means state legislators and governors have to enact the needed reforms in spite of the intense lobbying efforts of educators and their organizations. This takes a great deal of intestinal fortitude. Governmental leaders have to look beyond the self interests of the education community and do what is best for students and parents. Whether this can be done in Missouri remains to be seen.

Why does the education community oppose reform? As with any endeavor, there are exceptions to the rule: There are many forward-looking teachers and administrators who understand that the status quo in education is not good enough. They are willing to try new ideas that have proven successful in other states.

But other groups remain opposed to such reforms. Teachers' unions are against the idea of performance pay because they prefer that all teachers make the same salary, no matter the quality of their work. To some, "accountability" is a bad word.

Administrator organizations oppose reforms because they fear the unknown. They wonder if a new charter school, for instance, would hurt their enrollment.

The next couple of months will show Missourians how serious lawmakers are about changing the way our educational system works. Will they send the message that we must do better? Or will legislators bow to the pressure from the establishment and do nothing?

We shall see.

Friday, May 8, 2009

US Chess Tournament Begins

The US Chess Championship begins today. Excitement all over St. Louis and the Central West End as the players begin playing today. The Chess Club and Scholastic Center of St. Louis is where the games will take place, and where the players will show their moves. Check Spelling
Preceding the start of the games were great events st SLUMA; Wednesday evening was the Marcel Duchamp Art and Chess show and Thursday evening was an amazing reception outside SLUMA where the drawing of the colors took place, with red and white wine glasses set up on a chess board. An incredibly talented teenager will be competing in the tournament (although he refrained from picking up a wine glass). Mayor Francis Slay and Lt. Governor Kinder welcomed the players and the crowd during the opening remarks.
The next week and a half will surely be exhilarating to watch!
Visit for live coverage of the tournament.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Caroline Hoxby Speaking at SLU about Charter Schools

Caroline Hoxby, a charter school scholar, will present on the Promise of Charter Schools.
The Show Me Institute is sponsoring this event; the fourth speakers series hosted at St. Louis University. It will take place at the John Cook School of Business Anheuser-Busch Auditorium: 3674 Lindell Boulevard.
There is a reception at 5:30 and the presentation at 6pm.

Click here to see event details from the Show Me Institute.