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Keep school issues under local control

Thursday, April 26, 2007

You would think a question about school days missed would be a relatively simple matter. And it would be until you have a legislative body jump smack dab into the middle of the situation. The result is a bureaucratic hodgepodge that makes you wonder if they don't have more important matters in Jefferson City.

The Missouri House this week debated how school districts should make up days lost to bad weather. I understand that the state wants schools to maintain a minimum number of school days. But it seems that local districts know better how to address their students than does the state.

Currently, schools that miss more than their scheduled snow days must make up an additional eight days for missed classes. After that, schools currently need to make up for only half the lost classes. But under legislation approved this week, schools now need make up only six additional school sessions and half of the days above that mark.

And schools that want to start classes earlier than late August must now hold an annual public meeting in their district to gain approval for the earlier starting time.

But back to the weather issue, if schools miss class days because of excessive heat, those days don't count like the snow days. Got that?

Here's the deal. The state should establish a minimum school day requirement and then get the heck out of the way. Local school districts should decide when they want to start their school sessions, when not to hold classes and how to reach that minimum state requirement. Beyond that, Jefferson City should address problems far greater than when students are required in class.

Urban schools always start later than rural schools. Know why? Because urban schools have found that students there refuse to show up before Labor Day. Why hold school when you know that a large percentage of your student body won't attend?

I always get concerned when bureaucrats think they know better what decisions to make than we residents. What applies to one part of the state may simply not work in another. So set some general guidelines and let local districts take it from there.

Everyone knows the importance of an education. But now you'll need an education simply to know the rules for school attendance.

In the meantime, our state is going broke paying for Medicaid and our transportation officials say they need billions to fix our aging roadways. That seems a bit more important than when schools start their fall sessions.



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Michael Jensen
Michael Jensen