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Guest Commentary: “Real Change, Real Choices Needed”

June 22nd, 2007 by mopns · No Comments

 

Brian Johnson, state coordinator for the Children’s Education Alliance of Missouri, sent us this editorial discussing the need for school choice in our public schools – especially in the soon to be unaccredited – Riverview Gardens District in suburban St. Louis. According to the organization’s website, “the Children’s Education Alliance of Missouri is a Columbia-based non-profit promoting greater parental choice in Missouri K-12 education.”

By Brian T. Johnson

This week, the State Board of Education acted in the best interests of students and taxpayers by recognizing the dismal status quo at Riverview Gardens School District. In reclassifying the district as unaccredited, board members impartially assessed district performance even though the findings were unpleasant. One local resident was quoted in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch objecting to the reclassification, although that is something like a patient asking a physician not to diagnosis an illness because that patient would rather not hear bad news.

Unfortunately for 8,000 Riverview Garden students, the news is bad indeed. Loss of accreditation confirms what many parents, journalists and public officials suspected: children are being subjected to severe educational neglect by the very public school system that is supposed to serve them. Bureaucratic malfeasance and incompetence has been substituted for academic focus and accountability to parents and taxpayers. That’s probably why the district spent more money per student than the state average last year, but fell far short of state standards in most performance categories.

The Missouri constitution guarantees school-age children the right to an education. In the case of Riverview Gardens, they have been denied that right for some time – kids show up to school buildings in the morning, but no one seriously believes students are receiving the education they deserve. In theory, parents will have the right to enroll their children in an adjacent, accredited district so that they can receive a real education. In practice, nearby public school districts are not required to accept incoming transfer students. They refused to accept city students after the Saint Louis Public Schools lost its accreditation, and will now likely reject Riverview Garden students.

Yet again Missourians are confronted by a situation in which a local public school district is so dysfunctional that is unable to educate students, and nearby public school districts are completely unwilling to do so. Parents literally have no option of securing a quality education and bright future for their child. If ever the case for school choice in the form of open enrollment, charter schools and tuition scholarships were clearer, it is now.

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