Superintendent Chris Belcher addresses how poverty impacts education

Thursday, April 12, 2012 | 7:42 p.m. CDT; updated 8:10 p.m. CDT, Thursday, April 12, 2012
Superintendent Chris Belcher of Columbia Public Schools, shown in this file photo, spoke at MU about issues of diversity and poverty that need to be addressed in the education system.

COLUMBIA — Columbia Public Schools Superintendent Chris Belcher wants all students to get a high-quality education, but it is a more nuanced problem than he feels is being addressed.

Belcher spoke to about 15 people Thursday afternoon at MU as part of a symposium put on by the Center for Family Policy and Research. His presentation, titled "Delivering an Excellent Education for All Students" addressed how diversity within the district and issues such as poverty need to be addressed to improve education.

"I don't think people get it," he said. "I don't think people understand when we talk about diversity what's really happening."

Belcher noted that there has been an income gap between different racial groups for the past 10-15 years and that poverty dramatically impacts learning. He said he thought poverty was getting worse and that it was more pronounced in minority communities.

"This is probably the poorest we've been since the '60s," he said.

Belcher addressed how income and economic culture interacts with family size to compound diversity and poverty issues.

"So what we're seeing is that those with income, to have access to the economy, to have the things and the success they want, are having smaller families to condense that resource for success," he said. "And then you see those that have lower income, and have less resources, are continuing to have large families, which makes the impact of the economy more pronounced on that group."

As possible solutions to issues of diversity, Belcher pointed out the importance of early childhood education and resources to make sure a student has a supportive home environment. He said that these issues aren't being talked about and that people try to make broad generalizations about why they are happening.

Belcher also addressed how the rising costs of higher education make it more difficult for students in low-income situations to go to college. He said he thought part of the reason fewer minority students get degrees was because, for those coming from low-income families, it is hard for them to understand they could be college-bound.

He said setting high academic expectations for students means that schools need support, mentioning requirements that are set by No Child Left Behind as well as the district. He also said he would like to see all students graduate with six hours of college credit, but to do that, the district needs resources. Belcher referenced national rankings that put Missouri below the majority of other states in terms of state funding to schools.

There is a great deal of change occurring at a time when there is little support for public structures, Belcher said. Solving problems in education is more complex than the simple answers that are often given.

"I still think we're one of the most wealthy nations in the world, we're one of the most intellectual nations in the world," Belcher said. "We have great technology, but I think we're just absolutely missing the mark on what we do for education."

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Ray Shapiro April 14, 2012 | 1:13 p.m.

("I don't think people get it," he said.)
I think many people do get it, at least those who really see the big picture.
This article reveals nothing but a bureaucratic fund raising tactic of an administrator using the supposed "poverty" of some of his product users to encourage more cash flow for his personal "institutionalization machine" with the caveat of supplying bodies/cash flow to MU.
("This is probably the poorest we've been since the '60s," he said.)
Census bureau reporting of the poorest since the '60's, perhaps, but since the 60's "those with 'on-the-books' reporting of income don't add in the value of government, TANF, AFDC, WIC, HUD, Medicaid, "free" clinics, church, nonprofit sector, voluntary contributions, other people's taxes, gifts-in-kind, off-the-books/criminal income, etc. How else can a "poor" family be encouraged to have more children to receive more "free" stuff?
It's disingenuous to infer a cause and effect of poverty and race when there's roofs over most, cars in the driveway of most, televisions, washing machines, computers, video games, libraries, parks, "free" food sources, free clothing, free furniture, free trees to plant, free bicycles, public transportation, school buses, "free" school lunches, food stamps, "free" education programs, summer programs and activities, etc.
When will greed and envy of those who have more children to get more stuff from "the man" be replaced with the spiritually inspired understanding that breeding is not the answer for a healthy community. The ability to learn and wisely use what is learned will truly free the poor.
Putting more money in the pockets of the "poor" does not ensure their wisdom or spiritual wealth, neither will putting more money into a public school system if the stewardship is faulty.

("Kansas City spent as much as $11,700 per pupil—more money per pupil, on a cost of living adjusted basis, than any other of the 280 largest districts in the country. The money bought higher teachers’ salaries, 15 new schools, and such amenities as an Olympic-sized swimming pool with an underwater viewing room. . . . The student-teacher ratio was 12 or 13 to 1, the lowest of any major school district in the country," Ciotti notes.

"The idea was that Kansas City would be a demonstration project in which the best and most modern educational thinking would for once be combined with the judicial will and the financial resources to do the job right." By the time the experiment ended, Clark’s plan had gone through more than $2 billion.

"The results were dismal. Test scores did not rise; the black-white gap did not diminish; and there was less, not greater, integration. . . . The situation in Kansas City was both a major embarrassment and an ideological setback for supporters of increased public schools.")"

(Report Comment)
Ray Shapiro April 14, 2012 | 1:47 p.m.

Article followed by my comment:

(Report Comment)
frank christian April 14, 2012 | 3:19 p.m.

""The idea was that Kansas City would be a demonstration project ,,,,,"

The billions here extracted from State of MO taxpayers were the penalties imposed by 2 Democrats of a 3 judges panel for a lack of proper desegregation measures taken be the state, as determined by Federal gov't. AG John Ashcroft fought it without success. I believe law suits filed by Black families to get the schools opened whether Federally set quotas of black to white student were achieved or not and efforts of AG Jay Nixon finally stopped the swindle.

(Report Comment)
Melinda Lockwood April 16, 2012 | 10:27 a.m.

We have a "poverty of parenting." It is not really about money but our bureaucrats don't want to address the real problems here. Dumping more and more money into a failing system does nothing to help. Look at our present government - same thing. Nationally, we are looking at a poverty of leadership; locally, we are looking at a poverty of parenting.
Student learning won't improve until parenting improves.

(Report Comment)
mike mentor April 16, 2012 | 10:55 a.m.

Melinda, if there was a "like", I would have just clicked it...

(Report Comment)
Ray Shapiro April 16, 2012 | 11:34 a.m.

Parenting workshops might be a good idea.
However if the parents are highly emotionally dysfunctional, learning disabled or substance abusers those parents will not benefit from the traditional workshop.
I'd rather see those higher functioning parents who belong to the PTA type groups, from Kindergarten through High School, work on a mission to venture outside of their cliques by building bridges to those who don't participate in the system and help those who are willing to be helped.

(Report Comment)
Derrick Fogle April 16, 2012 | 12:02 p.m. the verbal beatings will continue until parenting improves.

Good luck with that.

(Report Comment)
Ray Shapiro April 17, 2012 | 10:55 a.m.

("As possible solutions to issues of diversity, Belcher pointed out the importance of early childhood education and resources to make sure a student has a supportive home environment.")
Diversity has nothing to do with the importance of early childhood education or making sure that a student has a supportive family. Every child should have that. The progressive liberal's belief that that the government education system should provide classrooms and schools for those who are not even yet potty trained is what I have a problem with.
Also, here's an expose on how the public schools can fail the community big time...
And as for the marketing of MU and the carrot and stick approach to selling college as a right and not a privilege, PBS Nightly Business Report stated that 85% of coolege students will be moving back in with their parents after graduation thanks to the Obama economy.
Perhaps if Columbia Public Schools wanted to educate a diverse population of students they would have made one of our four high schools into a magnet Vocational School at the very least. In this town it seems that if you don't go to MU, you're a failure.

(Report Comment)

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