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Letter: Any education reform should be transparently debated

Letter: Any education reform should be transparently debated

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Side-by-side learnign with teacher Karen Siekerman

"Count it out," said third grade teacher Karen Siekerman who helps Semaj Crump, 8, with a math problem on Thursday, Feb. 4, 2021, at Arch Community School. Photo by Laurie Skrivan, lskrivan@post-dispatch.com

Regarding “$2 million in Missouri budget could flow to nonprofit funder of charter schools” (April 19): The Missouri Legislature is still negotiating the amount the state would spend to support The Opportunity Trust, a private nonprofit foundation that funds charter schools. The foundation says it “envisions a St. Louis public education system that enables all students to thrive.” But its long-term goal seems to be to convert our schools to charters.

The failure of St. Louis Public Schools shows in test scores that are below grade level in reading and math, in poor attendance, and in graduation rates. The concentration of housing for low-income families, a consequence of racial segregation, adds the stress of poverty, which impedes learning. There is a lack of adequate funding for services taken for granted by wealthier districts such as nurses, social workers and experienced teachers.

The state first authorized charter schools in St. Louis and Kansas City in 1998. Their success has been uneven at best, but their performance in aggregate is more or less the same as public schools. The Legislature is showing increasing support for school choice, which ultimately funnels money away from traditional public schools. The complex issue of education reform needs to be studied and debated in a more intentional and transparent way at the local level. One can only hope that money designated for strategic planning and “district redesign” will benefit those most directly affected by the outcome.

Susan Lammert • Ladue

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