Your letters May 1, 2021
Apathy damages our democracy
There has been an 800 pound gorilla in the United States election picture for years that no one mentions and that is partisan politics.
Partisan means I win and you lose. In other words, no middle ground, no listening to the other’s point of view. Or, if you keep quiet, it is only to wait your turn to make your talking points. In other words — politics as usual, gridlock and a lot of words from Washington with little listening to the people who elected them.
Then, the other side of the coin — 26% turnout means 74% said they could not be bothered with the bond issue and the future of the school board. In a word — apathy. Quite the commentary, isn’t it?
Local, regional, state and federal levels of government deserve better participation than we have given them. What will it take to remove the apathy so evident in our voting patterns? Each one of us has the answer.
Make schools more accountable
Even before I began my first session in the Missouri Legislature, I was motivated to help make changes to our Missouri education system. Many of our schools in rural Missouri are performing well, but some are not, while some schools in urban areas are abject failures.
This past year has pointed out the need for changes to allow parents to have more choice in how their own children are educated. Many types of education reform have been proposed, from open enrollment and education savings accounts to charter expansion.
The continuing debate must include a candid conversation about accountability for schools and districts in the educational opportunities they are delivering.
An abundance of research (including a new analysis from Stanford University) shows that economic growth and educational opportunity are inextricably linked. Without much bolder and more effective interventions in our public education system, there simply is no path to positive and inclusive economic growth in our state as well as our two major metropolitan areas.
In Missouri, 72% of our persistently failing schools are in St. Louis City and County.
It’s those sort of stark disparities that led me to sponsor House Bill 541, which would require the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education to designate (and publicly identify) all schools performing in the bottom 5% for more than three years as persistently failing. Districts with more than two schools in that bottom-of-the-barrel cohort for more than two years would be classified as provisionally accredited. Districts would be required to participate in the state’s School Turnaround Program, or shutter persistently failing schools and either collaborate with a nonprofit school operator to create a district charter school; or reimburse other districts or charters where their students transfer.
We have a moral and fiduciary responsibility to taxpayers to ensure that all children in our state are getting a quality education. We simply cannot let another year go by without passing meaningful reform that includes school accountability.
Rep. Ed Lewis