When it comes to providing a world-class education to all Missouri students, the stakes are extremely high. If we are to compete in the global economy, we must have a skilled work force.
While some politicians are looking to reduce the amount of days that students spend in classrooms this year as part of a “snow day bailout,” other decision makers are working hard to ensure every second our students spend in a classroom is making a difference. Among the issues related directly to this topic in 2011 is a look at charter schools.
First opening their doors in Kansas City in 1999, and a year later in St. Louis, charter schools are a relatively new approach to education in Missouri. A charter school is the same as a public school, with the exception of its organization. A charter public school is governed by an independent school board. Just like standard public schools, charter schools are free and open to all students in the districts where they operate, and are held accountable for the results they produce.
This year, school and parent choice are taking shape in the Missouri House of Representatives. Among the bills that have caught the attention of educators and parents is House Bill 393, which would establish the “Parent Empowerment and Choice Act,” or the “Parent Trigger Act.” This would allow parents to shut down a school if it is struggling to the point that children are suffering academically.
In other words, parents could “pull the trigger” to stop the way a school is operating, and then re-open the school with either a new staff or as a charter school. Other states have started using this policy. Parents are fed up with lackluster schools and teachers who do not seem to care about anything more than their paychecks, pensions and when the next vacation day will be. Fortunately, I do not believe we have schools like this in our area. This law would allow parents to take action and fight for the future of their child’s education.
Another proposal, House Bill 473, would expand charter schools to all of Missouri. Currently, charters can only be found in St. Louis and Kansas City. Charter schools are working in these cities to improve the odds for local students. Today, we estimate the number of prisons we will need based on the reading performance of our young students. I believe every kid deserves a fighting chance in life. This new option may also provide opportunities for teachers looking for creative ways to educate students of varying backgrounds. Of course, all of the discussion around charter schools — like traditional public schools — should include accountability and performance.
I look forward to debating these ideas, and others that may also be taken up this session. Anything we can do to expand world-class educational opportunities in Missouri has to be looked at. We are in a battle with not just other states, but other nations, when it comes to producing the best people we can for the jobs of the future. I am very interested in doing what is right for these kids and their parents, regardless of the political consequences.
Friday, February 25, 2011
Stouffer offers the ins and outs of school reform
Sen. Bill Stouffer, R-Napton, offers his take on school reform in his latest column, and as you might expect, it is all about school choice and charter schools: