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|Saint Louis City, MO||August 5, 2008 Election|
By Robert "Rob" StelzerCandidate for State Representative; District 67; Democratic Party
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We need to put the quality of education for children in the City as our first priority; every other issue and consideration must come second.A quality education is the foundation of a strong community. Not only does education help individual children, but it also affects the community on a broader scale in areas such as economic development, crime/security, property value, tax base, and the general quality of urban life. We are all aware that there are some pressing issues in the overall quality of education in our City. For a variety of reasons, our public school system has deteriorated to some extent in recent years. At this point, our community should first and foremost be concerned with giving children a quality education, period; once affordable and comprehensive quality education is restored within our City borders, many other pressing issues will significantly improve as well.
We need a strong City public school system. This system, however, has always existed side-by-side with other types of non-public schools in the City. Even in its heyday, the City public schools existed in combination with (for example) Catholic, Lutheran and Baptist schools to form a total framework for quality education in the City of St. Louis. Today, there is no reason why City public schools and other (non-public) schools cannot co-exist. In fact, if we are honest with ourselves, these non-public-school educational institutions have helped immensely to mitigate some of the ill effects of the often negative image which our public schools portray in general. For example, many more City residents would have moved out of the City if not for existence of these educational alternatives for their children. Right or wrong, these are facts that we must face; purely ideological positions which are inflexible are not helpful.
Our solutions are going have to be pragmatic, realistic and innovative all at the same time. However, with all of that said, the funding for and the re-establishment of quality education in all City public schools must be one of our top priorities. This process will not be easy. There are no easy answers. Although there have been efforts in the past, we have not yet found a sufficient solution. Hard work, dedication, cooperation, unselfishness, pragmatism and innovative thinking are needed. The interests of the children must come first, period!
As for 'vouchers' for County schools, this cannot be our long-term solution. By using as models both the successful City public schools and successful non-public schools we can improve our quality of education in the City; there is no reason why we need to send our children out to the County in the years to come. By continually sending our children out of our neighborhoods, we disconnect them and their families to some extent from our Community. Using these County schools has been an important part of a short-term fix to a dilemma; there is no doubt about that. However, eventually we need to wean ourselves off of this stop-gap approach and re-establish quality education within our City's borders.
I will sponsor and support legislation in Jeff City to effectuate changes; I will also work hard here in St. Louis, using the influence of my position. This includes improving our system so that control of our public schools can be returned to the City, finding solutions for fiscal feasibility, better incentives to attract quality teachers, lower teacher-student ratios, funding special-magnet-high needs schools which facilitate learning for all types of children, reintroducing stronger elements of the neighborhood school, and developing programs for kids who do not have the proper fostering home environment so that they too can have the structure needed to get a quality education + for what happens inside the classroom is only a part of the educational process. What, where, and how students learn is a function of the organization of the school system, prevailing theories on learning, local political pressure, financial reality and the home-environment of students. The bottom line is that if the totality of our Public School System were high quality + including a financially sound and efficient 'administration' + we would not have the current dilemma. Also, there is no reason why, in theory, non-public schools cannot be part of our plan for reestablishing 'total' quality education in the City. Remember, the children come first!
Schools and parents must form a partnership that provides the best possible education for children. Families should have the tools in developing homes that are conducive to learning. Schools need to communicate with every parent, and parents need to be involved in schools. One way to do this is with meetings and conferences at the school; non-traditional times need to be considered to accommodate modern realities. Moreover, a greater element of the neighborhood school would go a long way in ensuring the needed communication and interest and also in facilitating logistical access for children and parents. In the end, parent and community involvement is essential for quality schools. Also, more money should be invested in teachers and less in administration.
In summary, I advocate finding innovative ways of establishing and supporting schools of all kinds in the City. All of these types of schools are integral and vital parts of achieving 'total' quality education in the City. In light of this, we cannot give up on our Public School System, which requires adequate funding for it to revive itself and thrive. At the same time, more fiscal responsibility and sensibility is called for. We are just going to have to work that much harder to find innovative partnerships and solutions. It can be done. I intend to be a material part of this discourse and action. I am convinced that a greater element of the neighborhood school is material for this to happen. This in no way entails eliminating special, magnet or Charter schools + but there should be a level playing field for all schools. Accordingly, I intend to work hard and dedicate my time as State Rep to improving education in the City.
Position Paper 2
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