Push for New School-to-Work Program Fuels Debate on Educational Priorities
Phyllis Brasch Librach And Joan Little Of The Post-Dispatch, St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)
MISSOURI OFFICIALS are designing a school project to put children on a career path that begins when they are in preschool.
In Missouri and nationwide, the path is called school-to-work. It teaches children as early as grade school the important relationship between school and work.
In school-to-work, a first-grader learns about careers from firefighting to surgery. In middle school, students explore options further with activities such as visits to workplaces. By high school, teens shadow workers and do apprenticeships and internships while taking classes geared to specific career tracks. The goal is that by the time a student graduates from high school, he or she will have had job experiences off-campus. "School-to-work brings business into the classroom and takes the classroom into the workplace," said Steve Alexander, assistant director of School-to-Work Opportunities for Missouri, the state office that is launching the program. Thursday and Friday, school counselors from Missouri and Illinois will attend a workshop on the project at the Marriott Hotel downtown. School-to-work programs rely on a partnership of students, parents, educators, businesses, labor and higher education. Not everyone favors the concept, in the planning and testing stages here. "People raising concerns believe this is a huge job-control system rather than an improvement to the way we educate our youth," said Steven Boody, a leading opponent, who lives in the Parkway District. Opponents say school-to-work would: Eliminate local school board control. Sacrifice parental rights. Cost too much money. Cover all students including those in public, private and parochial schools and students who learn at home, which opponents say would take control of the child's education away from parents. School-to-work supporters say the concept gives children the solid academics and skills they need to succeed in a competitive workplace and be learners for life. Russell McCampbell, assistant commissioner of vocational and adult education in Missouri, "We want people to know there are good jobs out there that don't require the four-year degree, even though that is the American dream." The school-to-work idea has won the support of business and educators, including the St. Louis Public Schools, most public school districts in St. Louis and St. Charles counties, the St. Louis Archdiocesan Schools, community colleges and some area public colleges. Supporters say school-to-work would: Retain local control through regional partnerships. Count on parents' participation. …