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Missouri needs ‘parent trigger’

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Posted: Wednesday, December 5, 2012 8:29 pm

Overcoming adversity is nothing new for me. As a child faced with many tough obstacles, and as a candidate that had to take my case to the Missouri Supreme Court just to get my name on the ballot, I do not shy away from a fight. As the newly elected Senator from Missouri’s 5th District, my determination and grit will carry on in our Senate chambers, especially for children in St. Louis.

While strong public schools play a major role in transforming neighborhoods and spurring local economies, African-American communities have continuously been plagued with poor-performing schools.

Recent data from the National Center of Education Statistics paint a sobering picture of the state of education in St. Louis. Sadly, only 64 percent of our St. Louis Public School students graduate from high school. And, over 22 percent of our African-American students are choosing to drop out. 

As a caregiver for my 13-year-old cousin, I fully understand that parental engagement is critical to ensuring student success. However, I understand what it is like to feel hopeless, with no sufficient options available. One solution I will strongly support next session is parent trigger.

Parent trigger allows a majority of parents to mobilize and sign a petition to turn around a persistently low-achieving public school. It provides families with leverage by increasing pressure on districts. By granting this power to parents, low-performing schools can now be held accountable.

The more power parents can exercise over their children's education, the more likely a city will construct education systems that put our students first. There is no reason a family should have to gamble with the academic outcome of their child.

Last legislative session was marred by partisan gridlock in the General Assembly. However, both parties found common ground on the issue of education. We successfully passed Senate Bill 576, which put new accountability measures for public charter schools. It also allowed for the expansion of public charter schools beyond St. Louis and Kansas City, offering new opportunities for children in suburban and rural communities.

While this was a major step in the right direction for Missouri students, more must be done. We must build on the positive strides that were made in our last session. We simply cannot let partisanship and special interests get in the way of providing a quality education for all Missouri students.

It is not going to be easy, but our kids deserve better.

Jamilah Nasheed is state senator-elect for Missouri District 5.

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