Politics & Issues
Fri March 28, 2014
The Rundown: Accounted For In School — And St. Louisans' Love Affair With Fish Fries
We know that you listen to us on air and check our website for news and information about our region. We hope that you look at our website every day, but we know that's not always possible. So, once a week, on Friday, we will highlight some of the website's top stories of the week. This week, we continue our look at chronic absenteeism in schools and at the crowds at Lenten fish fries.
Our series on chronic absenteeism continues with an on-the-ground look at the unaccredited Riverview Gardens district and its attempts to improve attendance — a first step toward winning back accreditation.
Riverview Gardens Superintendent Scott Spurgeon is determined to upgrade academic achievement in the unaccredited school district in north St. Louis County. But before he can use new teaching styles and community engagement as springboards for classroom success, Spurgeon has to scrub clean a corrosive problem: Too many students are missing too much school.
At Westview Middle School in Riverview Gardens, a school where roughly one in four students was chronically absent last year, none of the 24 kids in Melissa Schut’s homeroom is on track to earn that label this year. It’s a high water mark she credits to the competitive nature of her class along with some healthy peer pressure. And good attendance now could pay big dividends for students down the road.
Business leaders in Missouri are waging a last-ditch effort to persuade Missouri legislators to expand Medicaid but so far without much success. In Illinois, though, expansion is under way.
For years in most states, Medicaid eligibility had been limited to disabled adults, very low-income parents and their children. Then along came the Affordable Care Act. One of its tenets was to expand Medicaid coverage to all adults earning up to 138 percent of federal poverty levels. But in 2012, the Supreme Court gave states the chance to opt out of Medicaid expansion. Illinois is one of 25 states that went ahead with expanding the program. Neighboring Missouri did not.
Something old, something new
While Wash U goes back to the future, resurrecting its long-dead sociology department, Enstitute takes a time-honored tradition of apprenticeships and gives it a modern high-tech twist.
Depending on who is telling the story, Washington University dropped its sociology department in 1991 because it was filled with radical thinkers or because it was not strong enough academically. Or maybe it was a little of both. Either way, the university announced this week that it will be bringing the department back, with some classes in the field possibly offered as early as this fall.
A New York-based apprentice program aimed at giving young adults experience within innovative companies is expanding to St. Louis. Enstitute, founded in New York in 2012, has a goal of helping to connect students who weren’t ready or interested in college get on-the-job experience with start-up companies and entrepreneurs.
St. Louis on the Air
Confused about the Bridgeton and West Lake Landfills and the connection between the two? The St. Louis On the Air program discusses the problem from a variety of perspectives.
There is increasing concern about two landfills in Bridgeton as a slow-moving underground fire in the Bridgeton Landfill edges towards the adjacent West Lake Landfill. Radioactive waste left over from World War II was illegally dumped at West Lake in the 1970s. Now it’s believed similar material is included in the Bridgeton Landfill and in the path of the fire. A plan to build a barrier to prevent the fire from spreading from one landfill to the other is now being considered. Residents and environmentalists are concerned that the area are threatened by a potential toxic contamination above and below ground.
With a few exceptions, this year's primary and general elections won't offer much excitement and competition. Guess we'll have to rely on the Missouri legislature as it rushes toward its May 16 close for that.
Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon and some potential allies in the latest legislative battle over tax cuts stepped up their attack Thursday on two fronts. Just as the General Assembly was leaving for its long weekend, the governor issued a statement making clear that the tax-cut measures that the House and Senate have been considering so far don’t meet his standards for approval.
Leaders in both chambers and from both parties remain focused on crafting a state budget and on easing the burden of the state's student transfer law — but they remain divided on expanding Medicaid.
For all intents and purposes, the 2014 election season looks to be a great, big bust. Nobody should be too surprised, as 2014 was always a way station to 2016. But hardly anybody expected state Auditor Tom Schweich, a Republican, wouldn't have a Democratic opponent in November. And some previously heated state Senate contests completely fizzled out.
Something fishy going on
We continue our STL250 coverage with a look at an annual tradition — the Lenten fish fry.
While the origin of the Lenten fish fry in the Catholic church is disputed, there is no doubt that fish fries are immensely popular in St. Louis. Some draw more than 1,200 people a week. There are multiple fish fry Facebook groups and blogs. Even the St. Louis Jewish Light has reviewed them.
Politics & Issues