school choice | St. Louis Public Radio

school choice

Students get ready for a violin class taught by Philip Tinge at Sister Thea Bowman Catholic School in East St. Louis.
File photo | Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Sister Thea Bowman Catholic School in East St. Louis is one of hundreds of private schools in Illinois that could see a financial boost from the state’s new tax credit scholarship program.

More than 90 percent of the families who send their children to the school fall below the federal poverty line of $24,600 for a family of four. That gives them top priority to receive a scholarship.

Although children from low-income families get priority,  if Illinois follows the pattern of other states with similar programs, most of the tax credit scholarships will go to middle-class families.

Students working in a classroom of Gateway Science Academy in April 2017.
Camille Phillips | St. Louis Public Radio

It’s been nearly 20 years since charter schools took root in Missouri, bringing independently operated but publicly funded education to St. Louis and Kansas City.

Often touted as a means of allowing parents flexibility when it comes to their kids’ education, “school choice” expansion is growing in favor among Republican politicians, including U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos and Missouri Republican Gov. Eric Greitens.

In the coming months, St. Louis Public Radio will detail the world of charter schools. But, as any teacher would tell you, an introductory lesson is the first place to start.

Missouri Bicycle & Pedestrian Day at the Missouri Capitol, 2013
MoBikeFed | Flickr

Updated 6 p.m. April 28 to correct that Missouri would be among the only states with an abortion notification law — The only thing Missouri lawmakers must do in the final two weeks of 2017 legislative session is pass the state budget for the coming fiscal year.

But there are a whole lot of things they could do — some of which Gov. Eric Greitens wants them to do — such as tightening abortion regulations, raising the standard for workplace discrimination and creating the last-in-the-country prescription drug monitoring program.

KT Klng | Flickr

Of the hundreds of education bills Missouri lawmakers have filed this session, charter school expansion has the best chance of passing.

Not only is Republican Gov. Eric Greitens an enthusiastic backer of school choice, but charter school advocates say the desire for alternatives to traditional public schools is broadening.

Tax credits | Flickr

The Missouri Senate could soon approve legislation that would give tax credits to people who donate money to fund private school scholarships.

Under Senate Bill 32, anyone could make donations to nonprofit groups that would use the funds to set up education savings accounts.

Then, parents could use those accounts to pay tuition at the school of their choice, including religious schools.

Democratic gubernatorial hopeful Chris Koster talks with supporters on Saturday in St. Louis. Koster says he's opposed to school vouchers, but is amenable to charter schools.
Jason Rosenbaum | St. Louis Public Radio

Even before he became governor, Jay Nixon drew a hard line in the sand: If the Missouri General Assembly passed any bill that Nixon felt transferred public dollars to private schools, he would veto that legislation. He followed through on that promise in 2014, when the General Assembly approved changes to Missouri’s school transfer law that, among other things, allowed children in unaccredited school districts to go to certain nonsectarian, private schools.

Whether that “line” remains, however, depends on who replaces Nixon in the governor’s office.

comedy nose | Flickr

Eligibility requirements and classes geared for special interests and abilities apparently are not enough of an attraction for some parents with other options at their disposal when faced with St. Louis Public Schools’ overall tarnished reputation.

The district has more than 1,400 open slots for students to enroll in its choice and magnet high schools for the upcoming 2016-2017 school year.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: When my wife and I found out we were having a baby, we began looking for pediatricians. We wanted the best doctor; and because we had choices, we were able to find a pediatrician we loved. In almost every area of our lives, we have choices, but many families do not have options regarding where their children are educated.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: July 2, 2008 - Don't get Jane Cunningham started. She likes nothing better than a good political fight over failing schools, and she doesn't mind being a lightning rod of criticism for her views on reforming them. To some voters, she's the enemy of public education; to others, she's the savior of good kids who deserve an alternative to bad schools.