Who is responsible for educating our children? Is it the school district? Is it a neighboring school district? Is it solely the teachers? What about parent involvement?
Recently the Missouri Supreme Court attempted to address these concerns when it upheld a state statute and ruled that children from unaccredited school districts can transfer to accredited districts. The cost of these transfers would be absorbed by the unaccredited school districts. The decision affects three districts in Missouri, two of which are in my area. These two districts have announced which suburban districts they will transfer students, to the surprise of the receiving school district. Each school district is looking at upwards of 400 or more students per district in these transfers with little say in the matter.
Turner v. Clayton was the means to the end regarding this transfer debate. Parents in the St. Louis City School system sued the Clayton School District. In the law suit, the plaintiffs wanted the unaccredited school district (St. Louis City School District) to pay for students to attend schools outside the district. The outcome, accredited schools can see an influx of hundreds of students into their schools. School districts across our county watched with bated breath for the outcome of this case. The Missouri Supreme Court found that accredited schools failed to prove that they would be burdened by the transfers from unaccredited schools, therefore ruling that the state statute must be upheld. However, schools are fearful of overcrowding and the ability to accommodate large influxes of students.
So many questions are being asked by parents regarding these transfers. What about class sizes? What about test scores? How will the transfers affect the environment of the schools? Of the communities? The answers are not so simple.
From a parent standpoint my concerns would be the obvious, overcrowding and class sizes. What is the effectiveness in teaching with large class sizes? What about the new students and their academic abilities? Will teachers have to spend time catching them up? How will that affect other students? So many questions but few answers.
Parents are reacting with mixed emotions; in some instances emotions are running high. In one receiving district parents vented their concerns about test scores, overcrowding, etc. however, the meeting took a turn towards stereotyping and negativity against children they just do not know. Is this fair to characterize a group of students because of their economic status or that they are coming from a failing school district? I sincerely hope that the sentiments shown during two minute news bites were sentiments of the minority of parents and that more parents would be accepting of these transfer students.
What about those parents agreeing to send their children to accredited districts? These parents are sending their children upwards of 30 minutes away from home for an education. These parents are going to the unknown and from the news bites; they are being led to believe they are entering hostile environments.
What about the students left behind at the unaccredited schools? What would be their fate? What about the money leaving these failing districts? How will they recover, rebuild or survive? Superintendents of the unaccredited districts are vowing to educate students and regain accreditation. But at face value is this really possible?
But there is common ground. What needs to be realized is that parents from the accredited and unaccredited school districts care about their children and providing them with a solid education. This is what they have in common; however, I do not believe that have reached the point of realizing their commonalities.
More needs to be done at the state and federal level, however, more also needs to be done at home but supporting our schools through parent involvement. When situations are at a dire state, we see parents come out in droves. What about being proactive versus reactive? A great deal can be learned from this situation. Maybe before a school fails, educators, parents and especially legislators need to look at the why, identify the issues and figure out how to improve the situation.
As educators and parents enter the unknown, I wonder if legislators thought about the consequences of these statutes. As this story constantly evolves, Missouri legislators are being reactive, given the backlash by parents and weighing in with a bill that would give power to school districts to veto the transfers. The bill could appear at the January 2014 session and take effect for the 2014-2015 school year. Could a veto power send mixed messages regarding the acceptance or rejection of students from unaccredited schools? Would these mixed messages mimic the messages being sent to failing schools as they attempt to transfer to accredited schools?
Can unaccredited schools afford to pay tuition for hundreds of transfer students while attempted to regain accreditation? The goal is better education for our students, however, is crippling a failing school district the answer? Is subjecting an accredited to an influx of students the answer? Is there a winner in these situations?
Only time and patience will tell if this is the correct option in the education of our children.