Education reform supporters look to expand charter schools
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Education reform supporters look to expand charter schools

Date: March 23, 2011
By: Kyle Tons
State Capitol Bureau
Links: HB-473, SB-294

The St. Louis Public School system lost accreditation in 2007. Some St. Louis City parents have taken matters into their own hands and pulled their kids into other accredited districts. Some students are now enrolled in charter schools throughout the city. These schools serve as another viable option for Missouri education reform.
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Wrap: Chris Howard is 18-years-old and homeless.

His stepfather has shot and stabbed him, in addition to other abuses in the past.

Howard currently lives at Youth In Need, a homeless shelter located in St. Charles.

He became a student at Shearwater High School in March, and now realizes how important his new charter school is for better education.

Charter schools are schools that receive public money, are sponsored by an outside organization, and attended by choice.

Charter schools are operated by outside organizations rather than the state, so the schools can set some of their own rules and regulations. 

Howard testified at a Senate Education Committee meeting in support of a bill that would expand the creation of charter schools.

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Description: Howard: "I think we should also be able to build schools, just like Shearwater because Shearwater gets your ready for college, work, and it's a goal oriented school."

Shearwater High School President Stephanie Krauss invited Howard and two other students to testify at the committee meeting.

Krauss says homeless children that move from shelter to shelter have a hard time joining a school because of their ever-changing addresses.

She says she opened Shearwater to eliminate any restriction from letting these kids have an adequate education.

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Description: Krauss: "We want to make sure all our city kids have the opportunity like ours and their not discriminated against because of the shelter that had an available bed."

Krauss says she supports St. Louis City Senator Joe Keaveny's (Kevin-ee) bill because it allows students to have easier graduation requirements.

One St. Louis City Representative Tishaura Jones sponsors a bill that would allow charter schools anywhere in the state and expand who is eligible to sponsor a charter school.

Jones says failing schools are not solely a Kansas City or St. Louis-urban issue, but a it's a Missouri issue.

She says that being a parent of a student living in St. Louis City, she knows that...

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Description: Jones: "parents need options".

Jones says it's important to realize that people have choices with everything and education should not be an exception.

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Description: Jones: "When we go to a restaurant and we don't like the food, we use the choice of our dollar to go somewhere else. Why should we have to accept the education system as it is?"

Representative Jones has reached across the aisle to gain partisanship from both parties, but not everyone is open-arms on school choice.

Western Michigan University education professor Gary Miron has been studying school choice programs in Europe and the United States for more than two decades.

He says he's an opponent to charter schools with negative results.

Through his research, he's found that most cases throughout the country have led to some schools not integrating students.


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Description: Miron: "It's leading to the promoting of the privatization of our public school system and it's leading to more segregated and fragmented school system."

Marshall Representative Joe Aull says he's also opposed to expanding charter schools into out-state Missouri because a lot of the charter schools in Kansas City and St. Louis are not performing at an acceptable level.

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Description: Aull: "I just can't see expanding them in a statewide movement until there's strong evidence that charter schools are out-performing."

Representative Tishaura Jones and other school choice advocates work close beside parent supporters.

Bertha Gilkey-Bonds is the Missouri representative for the Black Alliance for Educational Options, which fights for access to better education for black children.

Gilkey-Bonds serves as a link between Missouri parents and the state government about improving the amount of options parents have for their children.

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Description: Gilkey: "That's all the parents are asking for...and accredited education, and it should have nothing to do with their zip code."

She says not allowing kids to transfer schools for a better education is un-American.

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Description: Gilkey: "America provides opportunities for everybody, for everybody to move from the bottom to the top. But, you can't move from the bottom to the top if you're not educated."

Gilkey-Bonds and the rest of the alliance gain support from parents around the state.

Alisha Franklin works as the chair person for the legislative committee for the alliance.

She says allowing parents to transfer their kids to other schools is a good thing for the St. Louis Public School system because it creates competition.

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Description: Franklin: "It's just like if you have two telephone companies and one is introduce a new cell phone, the other will introduce one too. But, they're trying to keep the competition with better services and better phones."


One of Franklin's children, Lance Livingston is a second grade student at Imagine Academy, one charter school in St. Louis.

Livingston says he likes his current school because...

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Description: Livingston: "We have a good principal and we have a, we have good teachers."

He says he wants to be either a meteorologist or football player, but attends a charter school...


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Description: Livingston: "So I can grow up to be a smart adult."

Livingston is one of the many children who transferred out of the St. Louis Public School system.

Education reform is an issue being taken seriously in Missouri.

From Jefferson City, I'm Kyle Tons.