Our Opinion: Intervention in schools becomes more flexible

Timing is an important component of intervention.

Intervention is the process of stepping in, identifying the problem and working toward a solution.

Gov. Jay Nixon last week signed legislation that will allow state education officials to intervene more quickly when a local public school district is struggling.

Missouri’s Constitution authorizes and requires the state to provide a free public education to young people. To carry out that mission, the state has created local public school districts, each governed by an elected board.

Although the state has procedures to promote equity — for example, the foundation formula for distributing state funding — local districts differ based on geography, local economies and other factors.

Some districts continue to perform well, judged by a variety of standards, while others have lost state accreditation as a result of poor performance.

School districts that have lost accreditation have two years before state education officials can intervene.

Although the intent was to allow a failing district to regain its footing, the delay may cause more harm than good.

Under the new law that becomes effective Aug. 28, the waiting period is removed and the range of options for governing unaccredited schools is expanded.

Among those options, state officials may set conditions for the local board to remain in place, create a special administrative board, merge with neighboring ones, divide a district or establish an alternative.

State education advocacy groups generally supported the legislation.

“If we’re going to have state intervention and state support for struggling school districts, there really is no reason for that not to happen immediately instead of waiting for two years,” said Brent Ghan, a spokesman for the Missouri School Boards’ Association.

We agree.

Education initiatives must prioritize student achievement, not perpetuate lackluster administration.

The new law provides the flexibility to respond expeditiously.

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