Earlier this week, Missouri State Auditor Thomas Schweich released the results of an audit of the St. Louis Public School District. The auditor’s office found several areas of concern: Contracts have been awarded year after year without an open bid process, the district lacks an appropriate internal audit function, there were possible violations of the Sunshine Law, and appropriate measures have not been put in place to prevent or detect cheating on state achievement exams. Chief among the concerns, however, is the issue of social promotion.
The audit noted that many students in St. Louis public schools are reading more than one grade below their grade level. Yet, the vast majority of these students are being passed on to the next grade without having the prerequisite skills. This social promotion, the auditor noted, may be in violation of state law.
District officials recognized they may not be in “full” compliance with state statutes, but lamented that they just “don’t have the resources to follow this law.” Complying would simply “put undue financial hardship on the district.” In the eyes of the auditor, however, “students who can’t read should be the highest financial priority.”
In essence, the auditor was saying that schools should be about educating students. That is their goal. That is their mission. The St. Louis Public School District spends more than $15,000 per pupil and they should figure out how to use those resources to make sure that students can read at grade level.
If educating students creates an “undue financial hardship” for St. Louis, or any other school district for that matter, then it’s time to let students take their education dollars to a school that can meet that demand. What is the cost of not educating students? What is the cost of passing students on year after year who cannot read? Think about the undue hardship that puts on students.
Watch the video of Schweich’s presentation here: