Monday, April 5, 2010

Wanna Send Your 4th Grader to Prison? Its easy, don’t vote today and let someone else think for you.

So is little Johnny going to leave the playground for the prison yard? It is a serious question. Growing bodies of research indicate that we can use demographic information to determine who will be going to prison and in some cases the graveyard.

It is scary to consider the lost potential held inside prison walls, and what about the money it takes to keep a person in prison verses the cost and long term benefit of a quality education? It ought to be a crime to recognize when you have a set of circumstances that encourages poverty, prison and death and still do nothing to stop it. Make a difference by improving education in Jefferson City. Vote today in the school board election and for the other ballot issues. Get information on voting here.

What can we do?

There is a one hit fix – care. That’s advice to all of us – care.

For example, look at the fight going on in Kansas City over their school board. Some may say that Kansas City and St. Louis are worlds away, but our issues and problems are the same in two regards: 1) there are low performing schools in both districts that according to the research will send our kids to prison, the graveyard and other potentially as detrimental circumstances that we as the citizenry can stop; and 2) we need leaders here like those across the country, who have heard the call for improvement in our schools and are willing to lead that challenge.

As an example, Airick Leonard West has single handedly (as a leader responding to his constituent's concerns) pushed Kansas City School Board to make changes not only in the way they manage resources and people, but also in the way school children are taught. Longer school days packed with hard core information as opposed to PE all day, closing schools that are not working financially and updating the traditional thought about what kids who suffer from a failing system need to survive. His work shows that he cares about more than being on the school board, he wants sustained improvement and has committed himself to one term to get it done.

Of course leadership in these trying times demands courage and intellect. Jefferson City needs the willingness to discuss intelligent ideas backed by research. Jefferson City deserves an informed and caring school board. We can have that through the engagement of parents and concerned community members.

The issues are in plain sight.

Current data available at DESE suggests that Jefferson City needs to take a hard look at how it is doing the business of education. The state's data suggests that schools working with parents can serve our kids by preparing them for the challenges that are coming tomorrow. We can see those challenges today and have an obligation to improve the system. Some of the problems are being fleshed out by the school district even now - improving school buildings, implementing efficiency measures, asking more from students, and increasing expectations inside and out of the classroom. The first step is easy - vote today. Then either join the PTA, the NAACP, or on your own, get involved in schools in your area as a concerned partner, parent and taxpayer.

We can do better.

Want an example of the impact research can have on a discussion? Children are ready to learn and best able to do so before they have traditionally been included in the school setting - before age 5. Early childhood education is the best idea we have had in jefferson City in years. Where has it been? I don't know, but it is based on research as deep as the Missouri river that says "teach em young" and they do better. It will have long ranging implications for the development of the community we live in and the productivity of workers in Mid-Missouri. Caring and smart administrators and teachers are attempting to offer our children better opportunities. These efforts have a better chance of diminishing the prison population than the 'hard on crime' platitudes have had. Those efforts ought to be applauded and we can do that with our vote today.

We the NAACP are here and prepared to have that conversation after today's election. Will you join us in that conversation?

Wondering who to vote for?

In case you missed it, the Jefferson City NAACP in conjunction with Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity Inc., held a Community Wide School Board Forum last month. Members of the community asked the questions that day. Please watch the forum - it ought to be on the website anytime now - or email and the file can be sent to you at no charge. You can also visit the websites of the candidates for more information.

Join in the effort to make the schools and thereby the community a better place – join the NAACP; vote; and make a difference.

Vote for your choice of candidate and make the commitment to look seriously at the issues we have in Jefferson City even after the election. CARE enough to save a child from prison or worse.

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