Tuesday, October 05, 2004

School Choice Flawed

Mitch pointed me to a great screed on Public education and its inherent problems. There was a lot of quality insight there, not that I agreed with it all. See, I have my own concerns, and even though I tend to lean left on many issues, this is one I just want to help fix. Let me expand (and copy/paste parts of my comments to Swiftee):
As a victim of the only school closing in St. Paul, last year, I was hit from both ends. As an educator, who was now being displaced due to tight funds and declining enrollments, and as a parent, whose child now has to travel across town to Ramsey, since the 'neighborhood' middle school program 4 blocks away was closed. I didn't passively let this happen. I attended the community meaning, and wrote a letter to the School Board not only sharing my concerns and frustration, but provided detailed remedies that could have prevented this closing.
There is much more, but then I open up the paper today and what do I see:

St. Paul School Choice System Flawed
As I read the article, I started seeing not only my concerns being addressed, but some of my ideas being considered.

Back in February, I said this in the letter:
I support choice, and bread based opportunity within the district, but maybe we don't have that luxury anymore. If we are beginning to close our schools, maybe it is time for the district to re-evaluate how they deliver educational services.

One area of bulging waste in the district is transportation. To stand on a corner and count several busses driving down the street with only a few students in them is disheartening. Every school has their own busses, and if a neighborhood has students attending each of the schools of choice, that many busses will be driving down the street of that neighborhood.
And now the district is addressing it, or so it seems.

The school community task force, of which I was NOT a part of, just released it's final report, and makes no recommendations, other then the current system is in need of a change. How typical of a body within our district. Didn't we know that going in? Isn't that why we assigned the task force to begin with?. They do however, present some options, some that looked surprisingly familiar to me. Specifically the regional transportation plan, the would provide choice, but only within your defined geographic region. My letter does a better job of explaining it:
3) Regional Choice: Currently, there are 5 area Superintendents. Areas A, B, and C include the traditional schools that encompass the school district. Choice can still be provided, but the choices could be limited to the schools within your Area, be at A, B, or C. This would build community, limit transportation miles, and undoubtedly save money.
I left Swiftee with this comment:
I may tow the 'party line' from time to time, but education is an area I just want to improve. Sometimes you need to just work at fixing something, and not spend so much time arguing about the fact it is broken.
Maybe the arguing is over at the 5 story tower at 360. Even superintendent Harvey admits:
"The timing is right for us to do one or the other: Acknowledge it's broken but we're not going to fix it, or say we're going to fix it"
Isn't the first step in any twelve step program admitting you have a problem. Maybe the local school district has finally taken step one, albeit a baby step, but a step nonetheless.

I'll be watching them, and I bet Swiftee will too. Be sure you read his whole post from the weekend. You'll find that even though we don't share the same philosophy, we do share the same goal. We both agree it is broke, and needs to be fixed.


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