Move the Teachers Around, Not the Students
Some after-thoughts of the successful Prop 1 vote in Ladue.
Looking back, from the massive amount of comments on our site, and from the sheer number of votes involved with election polls, there was supreme interest in this blistering red-hot topic.
I really think some of the comments reflect views of people who aren’t as informed about public education as they might believe they are.
Remember, its hard to build up, and easy to tear down.
Arm chair quarterbacking is much easier than being in the barrel and running the day-to-day operations.
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The critical comments spanned a wide range; everything from the superintendent being paid too much, to offering unnecessary bus service to allowing the teachers to be paid on merit and having tenure.
Sorry, but I take issue with many of these points.
For instance, I believe critical statements about where children should go and the autonomy to run public education, for the most part are out of bounds.
Our local private schools are the best in the land. They play second fiddle to no one. But at the same time, the Ladue School district has been been recognized as one of the premier districts since its formative days way back in the 1950s.
Remember, there is a seat in every classroom for every child in Ladue who attends private schools. This is the parent’s choice and theirs alone to opt out for private education. Their taxes guarantee a place in the local public system.
One of the rubs comes with a severe downturn in the economy, Some children in local private schools have switched their enrollment from private to the public school system because of fiancial pressures at home. Of the overall increase in enrollment of 700 over the last seven years, one-third are local private school transfers. These are cold hard facts.
That means Ladue is spending alone $3.15 million each year addditionally to educate these transfer students. (Multiple $12,600 per pupil times 250 students).
The money has to come from somewhere.
Ladue residents have enjoyed the lowest tax base of all public schools in St. Louis County ($2.50 on every $100 of valuation) and at $3.14 (after the vote), it still is a very low rate. With a depressed economy, some Ladue families even saw their property tax bills reduced the past few years.
Those on the opposing side have suggested the money be divided equally among all public school districts, offering a more equitable opportunity for children to get a world class education everywhere.
I would have to disagree with that. Many have scrimped and saved to move to Olivette or Ladue or surrounding neighborhoods so their children could take advantage of what has been perceived as one of the finest systems in the region. Few could quibble with test scores or college admissions as not being proof positive of the results.
I will leave you with one novel suggestion.
You want fairness in the system from neighborhood to neighborhood? Then move the teachers, not the students around. Busing proved over the course of 30 years as not being the optimum formula for success.
My idea has fallen on deaf ears but I’ll try one more time:
Have just one central hiring hall for all new teachers in St. Louis. Then, assign the new teachers throughout the community where the needs are the greatest.
Buildings don’t make great students. Inspiring teachers do.
If teachers were dispersed fairly and equitably throughout the region, suddenly you might see Sumner and Vashon more on a par with Ladue or Clayton or Kirkwood.
Fair is fair. Let the teachers make some sacrifices, not the students or their families.
That’s just food for thought.