New Programs Called a Threat to Students

Article excerpt

If Missouri's schools are forced to take part in the School-to-Work and A+ Schools programs, children could be negatively affected for life, at least one school board member believes.

Bill Gearon, a member of the Northwest School Board, said he has r esearched both programs. Gearon presented his findings at a workshop organized last week by Mehlville Parents for Academic Excellence.

Gearon says the School-to-Work and A+ Schools programs along with other federal education programs will lead to a "dumbing down of students" and could force students to make poor career choices. Gearon said school districts should not be forced by the government to use programs that do not benefit students merely because the district could lose federal or state money by not using the programs. "Although the government tells you that the School-to-Work and A+ Schools programs are voluntary, they really aren't," Gearon said. "How can they say they are voluntary when the A+ Schools program will realign all the curriculum for your district? To participate in these programs, a school district must have a plan that agrees with the plan established by the federal and state government. "For example, our school district gets more than 50 percent of our funds from outside the district. As a school board member, I can say no to these programs and lose more than 50 percent of our funds. I can say I don't want the money from these programs, but then I will have to say I don't want other federal money, such as Title I. The government says these are voluntary, but it is a tough situation. Without federal funds, you can lose your district." In 1995, Gov. Mel Carnahan authorized Missouri's participation in the School-to-Work program, which incorporates objectives from such programs as Goals 2000, the Show Me plan, Missouri School Improvement Program, National Community Service and other programs. School-to-Work is planned to be in effect by 2001. Under this program, students will be taught career strategies as early as kindergarten. Students will receive career and self-awareness activities and will choose careers by the junior year in high school. Gearon said the typical student is not able to choose a career early in life and, under these programs, once a career is chosen, the student will not be allowed to change it. Under the programs, schools will work with businesses to provide a career direction for students. Gearon said this could be detrimental to students, especially if a district operated in an area with a limited number of businesses. "I want a child to study what he wants to be, not what is mandated for him to be," Gearon said. "These programs are looking at meeting the needs of the local business community because these are their partners. It's easy to put kids that want primo jobs into them. If you get selected to go into a great career path, aren't you lucky? …

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