Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Stacy Washington: Expanding School Choice

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Stacy Washington: Expanding School Choice

Article excerpt

Why are the residents of the Show-Me state required to live in Kansas City or St. Louis in order to have access to charter schools? According to the Missouri Education Reform Plan (created by the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education), by the year 2020 the state's public education system will rank in the top 10 nationally and internationally. That is the goal. The Show-Me state cannot reach that lofty height if children in underperforming districts are left to languish without other options.

Contrary to prevailing thought, low-performing districts aren't limited to the inner-city cores of Kansas City and St. Louis. School districts with one or more failing schools exist across Missouri: in Columbia, Independence, Jefferson City, Cape Girardeau, Ferguson-Florissant, Springfield and Sikeston to name a few. Students in these districts who attend feeder elementary schools with only one high school are without choice when that high school underperforms. It's the only high school in town.

The GOP-controlled state Legislature has an opportunity this session to widen school choice for Missouri's children through the passage of House Bill 634, which would allow charter schools to operate "in any school district in which at least one school building has received a score of sixty percent or less on its annual performance report for two of the three most recent annual performance reports available as of the date on which a charter school applies to open."

This opens up the possibility of charter school options in an additional 26 school districts in the state by lifting restrictions that currently block them from opening outside the two big metropolitan areas. Currently, state accreditation standards do not require every school building within a district to meet the minimum standard of scoring about 70 percent on the Annual Performance Review. As a whole, a district must meet that benchmark, leaving students in buildings that are scoring well below that stuck.

Enter HB 634, which doesn't go as far as many would like in offering choice to students and families. However, it is a good start. …

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