The daily newspaper speculated this morning on what impact the April 4th election might have on my political fortunes. The same ink would have been better spent gauging the impact of the same election on children. A very small percentage of the electorate of a growing city split nearly in half: I’ll be just fine. I am very worried the children will not.
The entire debate since Tuesday has focused on adult issues: politics, jobs, and power. Nothing about reading, writing, or learning.
When I decided to spend a considerable amount of time and energy on a series of initiatives to improve the City’s public schools, I did not use a political calculator. Most likely, had I based my decision on what was best for me, I would have done what most other elected officials have done for the last two decades: nothing.
Likewise, the St. Louis business community has been criticized for stepping up to help in these campaigns. If everyone in the region spent half as much time - or money - on improving learning as they have, we would have a world-class school system. They deserve thanks, not backhands.
I have involved my office with a school system I don’t control by statute because the St. Louis Public Schools do an important job badly. The SLPS has wasted billions of dollars. Worse, they have wasted the potential of tens of thousands of children.
The problems are so numerous and so deeply entrenched that many people have given up: their involvement is limited to signing a tax check and does not extend to voting. Nearly nine out of ten registered City voters stayed away from the polls on April 4th.
I believe every child - regardless of income-- deserves a quality education. We all know what happens when they don’t get one. According to a recent story in The New York Times, 72 percent of African American men who do not graduate from high school do not have a job. Many of them are in prison.
A reporter for a local television station asked what I thought of the new board members’ reform plan. I said I was not aware that they had one. If they do, I look forward to seeing it. I am willing to give them and every member of the Board of Education a chance to improve education for children. If they do, I will do everything I can to make them successful. But, if they don’t, I will seek alternatives to the St. Louis Public Schools.
A lot of people who have worked with me on this project for the past several years are discouraged. Some are ready to give up. I’m not.