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Keep close watch on St. Louis schools

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

I've tried to follow the saga of the St. Louis public schools for several reasons. For starters, we have school districts in southeast Missouri that may soon face a state takeover and it's important to follow the progress of the St. Louis schools to know what to expect. And since the 32,000 student district is the state's largest, decisions made there will likely impact schools throughout the state.

The state earlier this year approved a takeover in St. Louis because the public schools are failing, graduation rates are depressing and the district has financial concerns. The school district appealed the takeover and a hearing on that issue is scheduled for today. We suspect that the state will takeover the district, as expected, despite today's hearing.

If we assume that the education of the students is the most important issue, then the St. Louis schools don't seem to understand. After years of decline, I would have hoped St. Louis school officials would welcome the state intervention. Let's face it, the local efforts have not had any positive results.

But St. Louis schools oppose the takeover and now are urging other school districts throughout the state to join them in their opposition.

In a move that leaves me puzzled, the St. Louis schools want to give their veteran teachers a financial severance package to retire. That would save the district money in the long run but it would remove the most experienced teachers from the system. When your students are failing, it makes little sense to me to nudge out those veteran teachers.

I personally doubt if the state can bring some improvements in St. Louis schools but the efforts made thus far have simply failed. There is no better choice. To improve the schools there will take a massive adjustment primarily involving the parents of these failing students. We've already tried to spend our way out of this mess and that has failed. To expect improvements, someone needs to realize we need to start in the home environment of these students. Only then can any real progress be expected.



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Michael Jensen
Michael Jensen