Charter schools and state takeovers; a tale of two cities
Yesterday the state Board of Education voted to take control of the St. Louis Public Schools district. In the process, the district also lost its provisional accreditation, failing to meet the necessary 6 of 14 requirements to maintain it. Meanwhile, in Kansas City, a nationally recognized charter school has been approved by the state, and is likely to open in July somewhere in the city’s downtown area. KC leaders hope this development will help attract residents with children to the area, diversifying the downtown population beyond young professional couples and singles, and ensuring its enduring viability.
The disparity between the two cities couldn’t be more stark in this light. Though education in KC certainly has its problems, it at least seems to be making progress, whereas the situation in St. Louis seems locked in a perpetual downward spiral. The difference is in the willingness and ability of KC to try new things, like expanded charter and magnet schools; whereas St. Louis prefers to stay the same misguided course in fear of change.
As I noted in a recent post, charter schools are not a cure-all for the many problems faced by our public school system. However, any measure that gives parents an option beyond their local failing public school is a step in the right direction. Mayor Slay seems to at least recognize this point, as he has asked for the authority to authorize and hold accountable new charter schools in the St. Louis area. As a lifelong St. Louisan, it pains me greatly to say this, but St. Louis and mayor Slay would do well to follow KC’s example and expand its charter school program, enabling city residents to choose an education for their children beyond their failing, unaccredited public school.