Mizzou Democrats, a student group whose purpose is to provide an open conversation for anyone interested in democratic points of view, held an education-focused meeting on Sept. 26.
The question of the night was ‘What are the problems with education, and how can they be solved?’
The evening was part of a meeting series the group dubbed “Let's Talk, Let's Listen, Let's Do,” which focuses on different local and national issues. September’s theme is education.
“We really just want to educate people on some of the progressive policies when it comes to education,” said Caleb Cavarretta, the outreach director of Mizzou Democrats.
This meeting, titled “Let's Listen: Education Solutions,” featured three speakers, each of whom focused on different issues within education.
Bradley Curs, an associate professor of educational leadership and policy analysis, focused on current federal legislation regarding education.
“Last month, the end of August, (President Obama) put out a plan or a policy to sort of coerce institutions and states into thinking about the costs and keeping the costs down and making (higher education) affordable,” Curs said.
The goal of the plan, Curs said, is to change how higher education is evaluated, with comparing similar institutions on how well students perform and whether students are able to pay back loans.
Senior Matt Tharp, a member of Progress Missouri, spoke on state education, which he described as underfunded and neglected.
Tharp said the Missouri state legislature has failed to properly fund education, an important investment in the coming 20 years.
“If you go to Jefferson City, you're going to see a state legislature and politicians who are, in some sense, openly hostile to education or at least public education,” Tharp said.
Junior Liam Dillow, the final speaker of the night, turned the focus to charter schools and the possible civil rights issues regarding education in the United States. Dillow cited success of Dove Science Academy, a charter school in Oklahoma City, which used a lottery system for choosing students and also used policies such as merit-based pay to reinforce good teaching methods.
The St. Louis Public School District has over 20,000 students.
“Their graduation rate is 52 percent,” Dillow said, while speaking of the struggles faced by urban school districts in helping students graduate and move on to higher education.
Dillow said those difficulties could be remedied to a certain extent by the use of public charter schools and merit-based pay.
At the end of the night, the consensus was there needs to be a philosophical shift among Missouri legislators. There is still work left to be done.
“We can't really uncork the champagne bottles and high five each other until we address this issue,” Dillow said.