It’s been an interesting week sitting in as a guest host on the McGraw Millhaven show on KTRS 550 AM here in St. Louis.
From gently ribbing the host (who has gone multi-platform and can now be seen on STLToday.com on camera and is also collaborating with the Post-Dispatch by interviewing many of their reporters) to getting to ask some questions about Obamacare and the County Transfer program, which is a “migration” of 2600 students from failing districts to the suburban schools of their choice, it was great to delve back into the local scene. The County Transfer program is Missouri’s version of School Choice, which I am generally in favor of.
School Choice gets interesting for me when you talk about whether you give public school students a voucher to be used to go to a charter or private school or whether you keep that money in the public school system, as Mayor Mike Bloomberg suggests, and allow students a choice but only within the public school system.
And how about Florida Gov. Jeb Bush calling out Matt Damon, an outspoken proponent of public schools, for sending his kids to a private school in Los Angeles.
Here in Missouri, The County Transfer issue is a sensitive one in part because it’s been in the courts so long, few people were expecting it to happen or for it to be implemented as swiftly as it was after last June’s court ruling. A lot of the parents in the receiving districts, like Kirkwood and Francis Howell, may have been reacting in part because they had so little time to wrap their heads around the idea. One article that helped put it in perspective for me showed how important it is to take a step back from the total number and consider how many kids would be added to a given class in a given grade at a given school. Here in Ladue, the article pointed out, the program would add less than 10 kids to the 3rd grade.
I did get to ask a guest on the program this morning, State Senator Scott Stilton, what he thought the financial impact might be and he acknowledged it could be significant since the failing districts have to pay 10-12,000 dollars in tuition to the receiving districts where their students are heading. Some of those districts, like Normandy and Riverview Gardens, were already financially strapped and if they can’t afford to pay it, the State will have to step in. It’s important, too, that the unaccredited districts aren’t forgotten now. Because there are still students in those districts who now face a double whammy of an underperforming district coupled with, not only the loss of funds, but some of the district’s more highly motivated parents.
As is often the case, the students in the receiving districts seem to have fewer reservations than the adults. One boy at one of the receiving schools, I think it was Francis Howell, touched my heart when he said, and I’m paraphrasing, “We’re not that different. We all have the same goals.”
The other topic of interest was Obamacare. Earlier in the week, we visited with Ryan Barker who is trying to get the word out. I’ve blogged before about how I didn’t think the states could afford it but at some point, we have to ask if Missouri is a renegade state blocking a federal law or if our leaders are merely respecting the 71% of voters who voted against taking the Feds money because they’re against it when Proposition C was put forth a couple of years ago. It is unique in that it is one of a handful of states that has passed a law barring any funding for outreach.