Five Ideas

Sunday, August 19, 2007 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 8:14 a.m. CDT, Wednesday, July 16, 2008


Columbia Public Schools now have the rating of “needing improvement” after the district did not reach the mandated levels under the federal No Child Left Behind Act for the test scores of their special education and minority students.

Columbia failed to meet mandated targets in communication arts, but scores on average for all grades were higher than those statewide at 50.8 percent in communication arts and 49.9 percent in mathematics, well above the 44.8 percent and 44.3 percent statewide that scored at proficient or advanced levels.

While Columbia is now being labeled as a school district “needing improvement,” it is also accredited by the state for its educational programs. This recent designation is a result of certain schools, such as Parkade Elementary School, falling below target levels, but others, such as Field Elementary School, have improved their test scores enough to meet federally mandated standards. Brent Ghan, spokesman for the Missouri School Boards Association, said that the No Child Left Behind Act is problematic because it will label an entire school system as “needing improvement” when it falls below targets within certain groups.

Does Columbia Public Schools’ “needing improvement” rating concern you, or is it a reflection of problems with No Child Left Behind?


Columbia students head back to school Tuesday, and while the heat may have lessened, temperatures are expected to remain fairly high.

Half of the schools in the area do not have air-conditioning, and 95-degree temperatures will lead to early dismissals.

Support services for Columbia schools started to address the issue of air-conditioning in schools in April when they passed a $60 million bond issue that will bring central air to five more schools in the next year, including Benton, Parkade, Russell Boulevard, and Blue Ridge Elementary. Until all Columbia schools are air-conditioned, the annual heat watch continues.

Should schools start in August when it is the hottest month of the year and some buildings do not have air-conditioning? What other options exist?


A provision being debated in a U.S. House of Representatives spending bill could reduce the University of Missouri’s budget and affect the amount of defense-related research it can do in future years. This change in policy would only allow 20 percent to be paid back to universities in reimbursements by the Department of Defense for expenses like “workspace” and building depreciation. This would impact the 49.5 percent in reimbursements that MU currently receives for “facility and administrative costs” for this type of research.

If the bill changed, the university would have to come up with the funds in other ways, most likely taking them from the general operating budget, which is going to be reduced by $7 million because of a plan that Chancellor Brady Deaton announced this July.

Last year, the $3.5 million that the university received from the Department of Defense in fiscal year 2006, which ended on June 30, funded studies in the areas of nanotechnology, breast cancer and prostate cancer. Hall said that if the provision were put into effect, the university would consider making a decision not to accept funding from outside organizations like the Department of Defense for research.

How do you think this provision would lead to changes at MU?


HIV/AIDS patients who are having difficulty finding housing will be receiving more assistance this year. The Waterbrook Place Project, sponsored by the Regional AIDS Interfaith Network (RAIN) in Columbia, has received $1.2 million in order to construct three buildings at Garth Avenue and Worley Street.

This project has become central to RAIN’s efforts, which include counseling patients and refurbishing a four-plex on Stone Street, to provide services to people with sexually transmitted diseases.

This group has received $87,000 from the Department of Housing and Urban Development and other funds from Federal Home Loan Construction and the Missouri Housing Development Commission for the construction of six one-bedroom and two two-bedroom housing units. People chosen to live in these buildings, based on their health and incomes, will pay, on average, $120 for rent and utilities. Construction is projected to start in September or October, and Mindy Mulkey, RAIN’s executive director, said that it is expected to be finished by fall of 2008.

Do you think that there should be further efforts to help low-income HIV/AIDS patients with financial matters?


A curfew in Ashland seeks to keep teens ages 15 and younger in their homes between midnight and 5 a.m. It was approved in reponse to vandalism in the city park in February, when police responded to reports of kids destroying park equipment. The culprits, who have not yet been found, caused about $1,000 worth of damage to picnic tables.

Now, under the ordinance, police can fine a parent $50 the first time and up to $500 if their teenager is found out after the curfew again. Beyond this, teens could be sent to juvenile detention centers and parents can be charged with child abuse and neglect. Many teens remain indifferent about the curfew and are out at 2 or 3 a.m., 14-year-old J.P. Craig said.

Teens like Austin Berendzan have said that the lack of places for people his age to go outside of their homes, like movie theaters, could be the reason for the increased vandalism in the city. When city officials tried to start a YMCA program a few years ago, they found that Ashland was too small for one.

Do you think that a curfew was the right response to the increased vandalism, or do you think there were other ways that Ashland could have kept teens out of trouble?

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