Sarah Brodsky

This Sylvester Brown Jr. column in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch speculates about the reasons people are pushing for charter schools and vouchers:

"Can't you see the pattern, man?" Sol said. "Powerful folks with secret plans, always shoving blacks aside, ignoring our wishes, sometimes our votes, doing what they want ?"

Sal interrupted, "That still has diddly to do with the schools."

"It doesn't?" Sol responded. "Tell me, what part of town has received billions in investment dollars? Downtown. And who lives downtown now?"

I'd just perused a 2005 Downtown St. Louis Partnership report profiling downtown dwellers. I shared what I'd learned. About 25 percent of the 10,000 residents are single people in their 20s. Another 20 percent are in their 30s.

"Yes," Sol said, "young people who, in a few years, will have school-age kids. That's why we're hearing about future charter schools and vouchers. It's not about kids in school today. They're planning for the future."

I can see why people would think that public school reform isn't "about kids in school today." We're told again and again that the public schools just need more time to improve; meanwhile, teenagers graduate (or don't) year after year without the skills they need to succeed in life.

However, I don't think vouchers and charter schools fall into that category. There already are charter schools, and Mayor Slay wants to open others right now — not sometime in the future when there are more white kids in the city. There doesn't seem to be much enthusiasm for vouchers here, but the tuition tax credit proposals that were advanced in the last few years would have been effective immediately.

And I find it impossible to believe that all of these different reform strategies are just part of a conspiracy to make the city nicer for white people. Bad public schools hurt everyone.

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Sarah Brodsky

Sarah Brodsky