Education Reform: Is Charter School Expansion the Answer?

Depending on where you live, the term charter school may or may not be familiar. Charter schools have been in existence nationally for almost three decades and started in Missouri in 1998. Until now, charter schools have been limited to only urban areas in the Show-Me State, but some lawmakers want to allow them to operate throughout the state. It’s important to understand what charter schools are, how they compare to local public schools, and what charter school expansion would mean for all Missourians.

What are Charter Schools?

According to Missouri state statutes, charter schools are defined as independent public schools. This means they receive state funding like traditional public schools, but they have far greater freedom to operate and aren’t constrained by all the red tape that traditional public schools have to abide by. In other words, charter schools are publicly financed but are privately operated. In addition, charters are sometimes run by national management organizations and private boards rather than locally-elected school boards under the traditional public-school structure. Proponents say charters offer parents the option to send their child to a different public school, which is tied to the notion of school choice and vouchers – also currently being promoted in Missouri.

Right now, charter schools are allowed only in the state’s major metropolitan areas – St. Louis and Kansas City. They are typically sponsored by a university that has a state-approved teacher education program. These sponsors approve the school’s curriculum, provide guidance, and serve as the gatekeepers for academic quality.

 

How Do Charter Schools Compare to Traditional Missouri Public Schools?

If you visited a charter school, you may not think it was very different from a traditional public school. At first glance, they’re not – you’d likely see third-graders reading in small groups, middle school students solving math problems, or high schoolers in a science lab. But under the hood, there are some pretty significant variations. For example:

  • Teacher Qualifications: In the traditional public school system, all teachers are required to be state-certified (licensed) in the subject and grade levels they’ve been hired for: A high school biology teacher must have a valid Missouri Biology certificate for grades 9-12, while a kindergarten teacher would need to possess a state license in early childhood education (Birth – Grade 3), and so on. Within the charter school system, only 80% of teachers must be appropriately certified to teach in Missouri; the remaining 20% are considered qualified if they are certified in another state or foreign county. While that’s not necessarily a cause for alarm, it’s important to note that licensure requirements can vary greatly from state to state, and even more so internationally.
  • Student Enrollment: While traditional public schools are required to accept all students regardless of their ability level, special needs, native language, or other factors, charter schools have the option of being more selective. This can have a big impact on test score averages, graduation rates, and the like.
  • Academic Freedom: Charter schools can write their own curriculum and choose to focus on a particular field of study such as the performing arts, college prep, science, leadership, and language immersion. Traditional public schools must provide instructional programs of study across all subject areas as required by the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE).

 

A Push for Statewide Charter School Expansion

Three bills have been introduced in the Missouri 2019 legislative session so far that promote charter school expansion – HB581, SB51, and SB292. Depending on what’s agreed upon by lawmakers, if charter school expansion is written into state law new schools could be established anywhere in the state. Charter officials would be required to seek the approval of a district’s local school board; if approved that board would serve as the charter school’s sponsor. However, failing to receive approval from a local school board would not actually prevent a new charter school from opening – as long as officials could provide documentation of sufficient community support, they could appeal to the Missouri Charter Public School Commission which would have the authority to (1) approve the charter school’s application and (2) serve as the school’s sponsor.

 

Potential Implications of Charter School Expansion

Competition Against Traditional Public Schools: Charter school proponents are quick to point out that if our traditional public schools were doing a good job, there wouldn’t be a need for alternative educational programs. It’s market-driven, they say. They point to the fact that many public schools are struggling to maintain their accreditation and some have low graduation rates. They talk about overcrowded classrooms, discipline problems, and the need for more individualized instruction. And in many instances, they’re right. The truth is, we have many public schools that can and should be doing a better job educating students. However, at least some of the problems those schools have stem from a lack of sufficient funding – money to buy new textbooks, maintain working technology, and keep class sizes manageable. Traditional public schools are held accountable for meeting state-mandated levels of performance, regardless of how much funding they receive. Some have even been forced to cut back to a four-day school week just to save money on utilities and transportation. Since charter schools receive state funds, statewide expansion will make the funding problem even worse—there will be more schools drawing from the same pot of money. Traditional school superintendents say this is not the path to school improvement, particularly in districts that are already struggling to pay the bills.

Non-Profit to For-Profit: Right now, charter schools in Missouri must be non-profit organizations. Though it’s not a guarantee of sound fiscal practice, operating as a non-profit requires a certain level of transparency, oversight, and accountability. However, as the wheels of expansion continue, it’s quite possible in the future Missouri could see charter schools run as for-profit businesses. Other states have opened this door with some very mixed results.

Cyber Learning: While most charter schools operate under the typical “brick and mortar” model where students travel to and from campus, some charter schools in other states are virtual – meaning students complete their education online. Teachers could be located in that state, or they could be located across the county or even abroad. Across the nation, many virtual charter schools are run as for-profit businesses while still receiving state funding. Recent research studies have found that virtual charter schools in states such as Ohio, Texas, Louisiana, and Florida failed to perform as well as their brick-and-mortar counterparts – meaning that they let down the students they served and the parents who sent them there.

 

Is Charter School Expansion the Answer to Improving Education in Missouri?

It’s true that not all public schools are performing as well as they should – there will always be room for improvement, and we must keep a watchful eye on local school districts to make sure they are providing our children with the best education possible. However, they also need our support. Simply allowing more schools to set up shop and draw state funding without sufficient accountability is not the way to improve our neighborhood schools. It will simply starve them down until our public education system is no longer able to function – thereby opening yet another door – the one leading to privatization. Is that really the choice Missourians want to make?

 

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Dr. Roberta Ross-Fisher is a national leader in quality assurance, educator preparation, and empowerment-based learning. She supports educational institutions and non-profit agencies in areas such as accreditation, competency-based education, and teacher/school leader prep programs design.  Roberta also writes about academic excellence and can be contacted for consultations, webinars, and on-site workshops through her site (www.robertarossfisher.com). 

 

Top Graphic Credit: commons.wikimedia.org

School Choice and Vouchers: A Common-Sense Approach

We hear a lot in the news about school choice and vouchers. These terms are often tied to national or state education reform. Many state legislatures have already passed bills affirming the need for school choice by approving school vouchers, while others are actively considering them.

But what do these terms mean? What is their impact on student learning? And, what’s the best way to develop common sense school choice solutions?

 

School Choice

Laws vary from state to state, but in Missouri students are allowed to enroll in school at age 5 and are required to start by age 7. They must continue to attend school until 17 or until they’ve completed 16 credits toward high school graduation. The basic concept of school choice is to let parents and guardians decide where and how they want their child educated. Under current law, they have three options:

  • Enroll their child in the local public school at no charge;
  • Pay tuition to send their child to an area private or parochial school; or
  • Take on the role of educating their child at home.

 

In most instances, these options are sufficient for meeting the needs of students across Missouri. However, some parents want additional flexibility when it comes to educating their child. Perhaps they want to send their son or daughter to a private school but can’t afford the tuition — maybe it’s not feasible to homeschool – or there’s another public school close to where they work, and it would be more convenient to enroll their child there. In Missouri most would agree that personal freedom is a vital part of who we are, including having a say in how and where our children are educated.

The challenge lies in how to best implement school enrollment options.

 

School Vouchers

Proponents often suggest vouchers as a solution to navigating the waters of school choice options. Similar to a coupon, a school voucher is a “transfer ticket” – thereby allowing a student to transfer from one school to another. A school voucher could conceivably be used across traditional public schools, public charter schools, private and parochial schools, or virtual schools.

One method for implementing school vouchers is through state and/or federal tax credits. Currently under consideration in the Show-Me State are two bills (SB160 and HB478) known as the Missouri Empowerment Scholarship Accounts Program, which would allow parents who live in any county with a charter form of government or in any city with a population of at least 30,000 to take advantage of state tax credits for sending their child to the school of their choice. However, in their current form these bills remove all educational oversight from the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) and place this authority into the hands of the state treasurer. In other words, while their passage would certainly pave the way for greater school choice, they could also jeopardize educational quality and risk hurting the students they were trying to help. While the state treasurer is well qualified to manage the fiscal details of tax credits and disbursements to schools, the responsibility for ensuring academic quality should be left up to those with expertise in that area—namely, DESE.

 

Important Considerations

An obvious benefit of school choice is personal freedom for parents and students. However, we must also consider potential drawbacks before legislating a voucher system. For example:

Student Learning and Achievement: Before we make any decision involving education, the most important question we must ask is, “What will be the impact on student learning and achievement?” If we’ve done our homework and can be confident that students will benefit, then by all means we should proceed. However, if we simply don’t know the impact of a decision, then we must proceed cautiously. The fact is, more quality research studies need to be conducted to determine what long-term effect school vouchers have on student learning. However, the current results suggest in the short term, elementary and middle school student learning has actually dropped in many states, particularly in math. On the other hand, high school graduation rates tend to be greater for students who participate in a voucher program. So right now—we simply don’t know enough to conclusively say that a voucher program is an effective way to advance student learning. The takeaway: Before passing any school choice legislation, lawmakers should consider what the current body of educational research says about the impact of voucher programs on student achievement.

Funding Impact on Public Schools: Public schools receive state funding based on a foundation formula, and average daily student attendance plays a big role in how much school districts receive each year. Simply stated, when student enrollment drops schools receive less money to operate. In districts where businesses and industry are plentiful, local tax revenues are typically higher and therefore schools are less dependent on state funds. In poorer districts where property taxes are lower and less commercial revenue is generated, schools are very dependent on the aid awarded by the state each year. Fewer students means there is less money to develop curriculum, to buy new textbooks, and invest in technology. Fewer students means there is less money to pay for highly-qualified, experienced teachers. And in an increasing number of rural schools, districts are being forced to cut back to a four-day school week in order to save on essentials such as bus transportation, meals, and electricity. The takeaway: While we want to promote personal freedom, we must be careful not to place additional financial strain on local public schools, which in turn could have a negative impact on student learning.

Regulatory Impact on Participating Voucher Schools: Under the proposed voucher system in Missouri, participating schools would receive funding for each transfer student as disbursed by the state treasurer. Given the fiscal challenges that many private and parochial schools commonly face, the program could provide a much-needed financial boost. However, if those schools accept state funds, they risk losing considerable autonomy and could be held accountable to the state for student achievement. The takeaway: Non-public schools will need to carefully consider the impact of receiving state funds before they elect to participate in a school voucher program such as the one currently being proposed in Missouri.

 

A Common-Sense Solution

There’s nothing wrong with wanting to offer parents greater freedom when it comes to educating their child. We can all agree that our children deserve an exceptional education – one that will meet their individual needs and help them to reach their fullest potential. However, it’s important to carefully think through the details, considering potential benefits and pitfalls before moving forward with public policy decisions.

The Missouri Empowerment Scholarship Accounts Program could be viable, with some modifications:

1.)    Establish the Program as a 5-year pilot, renewable as long as it proved to be fiscally feasible and educationally beneficial to students.

2.)    The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) should serve as the regulatory body responsible for ensuring the academic quality of schools participating in the Program, while the state treasurer should be responsible for fiscal oversight and management of tax credits and payments to participating schools.

3.)    DESE officials should collaborate with qualified educational researchers to design and implement a comprehensive research study to determine the short-term and long-term impact of the Program.

4.)    A panel of stakeholders representing the state treasurer, DESE, parents, participating schools, and the general public should be formed to monitor the ongoing success of the Program. A set of metrics should be agreed upon and reviewed at established intervals in order to make recommendations regarding continuation, modification or if needed, discontinuation of the Program.

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Dr. Roberta Ross-Fisher is a national leader in quality assurance, educator preparation, and empowerment-based learning. She supports educational institutions and non-profit agencies in areas such as accreditation, competency-based education, and teacher/school leader prep programs design.  Roberta also writes about academic excellence and can be contacted for consultations, webinars, and on-site workshops through her site (www.robertarossfisher.com). 

 

Top Graphic Credit: drrichswier.com

Funding Missouri’s Schools = Advancing Missouri’s Future

School funding is not a particularly exciting topic, but it’s extremely important. All of us—each educator, legislator, employer, and parent—should be well-informed when it comes to how our P-12 public schools are funded. While it’s true that money doesn’t always guarantee success and high performance, it’s very difficult to make substantial progress without adequate fiscal support. Here are some important facts based on 2017 state rankings and 2018 school statistics estimates of school statistics data:

  • There are 556 operating school districts in Missouri, ranking 10th in the nation.
  • Missouri ranks 34th in the nation for its number of high school graduates.
  • The average salary for public school teachers in 2015–16 was $58,064 in current dollars (i.e., dollars that are not adjusted for inflation).
  • In constant (i.e., inflation-adjusted) dollars, the average salary for teachers was 1% lower in 2015–16 than in 1990–91.
  • Ranking 41st in the nation, the average Missouri teacher salary in 2017 was just over $48,000.
  • School funding per enrolled student in Missouri actually went down in the last fiscal year:
    • 2016: $12,551 per pupil (26th in the nation)
    • 2017: $12,069 per pupil (30th in the nation)
  • Likewise, school funding per student in average daily attendance also went down:
    • 2016: $13,074 (29th in the nation)
    • 2017: $12,578 (31st in the nation)
  • The bulk of funding for Missouri’s schools comes from local government sources and remained about the same over the last two years:
    • 2016: 58.6% (4th in the nation)
    • 2017: 58.5% (4th in the nation)
  • Only about a third of the funding for Missouri’s public schools comes from state government sources, which is far behind what most other state governments contribute:
    • 2016: 32.7% (48th in the nation)
    • 2017: 33.0% (47th in the nation)
  • Even federal government funding for Missouri’s public schools dropped in the last two years:
    • 2016: 8.7% (28th nationally)
    • 2017: 8.4% (27th nationally)
  • Missouri is in the middle of the pack when it comes to per-student enrolled expenditures, and it remained almost flat over the past two years:
    • 2016: $10,784 (27th in rank)
    • 2017: $10,826 (28th in rank)

2018-19 Projections

Based on trend data, Missouri will not fare well during the 2018-19 academic year:

  • The number of teachers will drop by 6.5%.
  • The number of all instructional staff will drop by 6.5%.
  • The average teacher salary will increase by 1.2% to just over $49,000. It is should be noted though that when calculating for inflation, teacher salaries are projected to show a 4% decline between 2009-2018.
  • Federal revenue receipts are expected to drop by 9%.
  • Meanwhile, expenditures per student enrolled are expected to rise by 1.7%.

 

So, what’s the takeaway? What does this mean for Missouri schools and for our state?

  • We have a lot of school districts operating the state.
  • All these districts must share a pot of money that’s shrinking each year.
  • State funding is woefully inadequate, near the bottom of all 50 states, and federal funding is less than 9% of what school districts receive.
  • That lays the bulk of responsibility to keep school doors open on the shoulders of local government. If this trend continues, property taxes must continue to rise to make up for the state and federal shortfall.
  • Missouri school districts are having to make very tough choices in order to operate within their limited budget. As a result, updating textbooks, buying microscopes, repairing technology, and the like have to be put on the back burner.
  • Missouri is losing its teachers. Some are retiring; some are moving to other states; and some are leaving the profession for more pay. This will lead to an even greater teacher shortage and will reduce the quality of instruction. Remember that research has proven time after time that teacher quality is the #1 factor in student achievement. If we fail to properly invest in our teachers and provide them with the kind of ongoing professional support they need to be successful, we are ultimately turning our backs on our state’s students.

 

Being a Part of the Solution: What Can We Do?

The state of Missouri offers endless opportunities for technology incubators, economic growth, cutting edge healthcare, tourism, and the like. Our residents are hard-working, salt-of-the-earth people who aren’t afraid to roll up their sleeves and tackle the hard jobs. We can address the challenges that our P-12 public schools are facing, and we can work together to make wise choices for the future.

Rather than the bulk of decisions being made by lawmakers who are influenced by lobbyists representing special interest groups, it’s important to receive input from those directly impacted: School administrators, teachers, community members, workforce representatives, parents, and of course, students. And, input needs to be much more than a hearing or two held in Jefferson City–these groups need to have a seat at the table and actually play a role in influencing decisions, allocations, and public policy. We need greater transparency and greater communication; a school superintendent should not have to learn of a funding cut through the local newspaper or on television. These stakeholders must be treated with respect and their insights should be taken seriously. Lawmakers should be out in their districts on a regular basis, not just for photo ops or fundraising, but for sincere listening and collaboration.

If lawmakers in Jefferson City are truly interested in promoting academic excellence in our state, they will create a structure in their districts to encourage active collaboration with constituents. It wouldn’t be that difficult, and I suspect they wouldn’t have any problem getting participants. I’ll start by raising my hand to be a part of the solution–who else is with me?

Dr. Roberta Ross-Fisher is a national leader in quality assurance, educator preparation, and empowerment-based learning. She supports educational institutions and non-profit agencies in areas such as accreditation, competency-based education, and teacher/school leader prep programs design.  Roberta also writes about academic excellence and can be contacted for consultations, webinars, and on-site workshops through her site (www.robertarossfisher.com). 

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The Four-Day School Week: Not a Bandwagon We Should Jump On

Public schools have long been a backbone to our nation. As a cornerstone for local communities, public schools have helped prepare a skilled workforce essential for manufacturing; they’ve also produced doctors, lawyers, academics, and others essential to a healthy and thriving society.

The first public school of record was the Boston Latin School, established in 1635. Still in existence today, it is currently ranked the #1 high school in Massachusetts and #48 in the nation according to U.S. News & World Report.

While we have an educational system that has led the world in many arenas, our public schools often face stiff challenges: Their budgets are stretched too thin while costs continue to rise. Expectations and accountability continue to remain front and center in an ever-changing political climate. There aren’t enough highly-qualified teachers, particularly in shortage areas such as math, science, special education, and English language learning. As a result, some school districts have been forced to find ways to serve students and yet remain fiscally solvent. Enter the four-day school week.

Which Schools Use a Shortened Week the Most?

Approximately 560 school districts in 25 states have moved to a four-day school week. Most of the schools are small and are located in rural areas. Within the past few years some larger urban districts have begun experimenting with a shorter school week, but those numbers are small compared to rural counterparts. In five states (Colorado, South Dakota, Oregon, Idaho, and New Mexico) at least 20% of schools within each of those five states have adopted a shortened school week model.

However, if we look at the actual number of school districts, then the state leaders for four-day weeks are Colorado, Montana, Oklahoma and Oregon. Colorado has the largest proportion of public-school districts with one or more schools on a four-day week at 98. Missouri currently has 28 schools on a four-day schedule.

How is a Four-Day School Week Implemented? 

The most common model is to adhere to a Monday through Thursday schedule. Most states require a minimum number of days and instructional contact hours in each school year; schools that have adopted a four-day week simply reconfigure their schedules to fit the required contact hours into a shorter time span. This can make for a very long school day, particularly for students who have a long bus ride to and from home. In some instances, students have a 90-minute bus ride each morning and again each evening.

How Big are the Savings to School Districts?

According to a report from the Education Commission of the States (ECS), national finance data concludes that the actual savings for districts that moved to a four-day week were between 0.4% and 2.5%. Depending on the size of the district, savings on bus transportation, building utilities, and custodial services could be significant enough for superintendents to seriously consider this model, particularly in states that have cut funding for P-12 schools. However, no savings are noted for staff salaries and benefits, given that staff must still work the same number of hours per school year.

What’s the Impact on Teacher Recruitment & Retention?

Based on a perception study conducted by Turner, Finch, & Ximena, school staff tend to like the convenience of a shortened work week despite a longer work day. This could potentially serve as a drawing card to attract applicants particularly in high-demand areas such as math, science, special education, and English Language Learners. However, very little formal research has been conducted on four-day school weeks, so the long-term impact on teacher supply and demand remains to be seen.

But What About Impact on Students?

Health & Safety: While some stay-at-home parents/guardians indicate they like having one day per week to schedule doctor appointments and run errands, those who work outside the home often feel frustrated by having to find childcare for one full day per week, plus the cost of paying for such care. In many instances when proper adult care isn’t available students are left home alone unsupervised, putting their health and safety at risk.

Nutrition: The vast majority of students in those 28 Missouri districts that have opted for the shortened week qualify for free or reduced lunches because of their family’s low income. In many cases, the only nutritious meals those students eat are eaten at school.

Juvenile Delinquency: When students are not in school and unsupervised, crime rates tend to rise, particularly vandalism. In their research, Fischer and Argyle (2018) analyzed crime reports in Colorado and found a 20% increase in juvenile crime.

Student Learning and Achievement: Very little quality research has been conducted on the long-term academic impact of a shortened school week, so the field is ripe for study. State departments of education should be very cautious when approving requests for a shortened school week and should monitor performance closely over time. A starting point is to focus in on one state at a time and track various data points longitudinally. To that end, some insights can be gleaned about the 28 Missouri school districts that have elected to adopt a four-day week schedule based on an analysis of data publicly available from the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE):

  • Out of the 28 Missouri school districts on a four-day schedule, only 1 received full accreditation with no sanctions during their last Missouri School Improvement Program (MSIP) accreditation site visit.
  • Five out of the 28 districts received District Improvement Level 1 sanctions, meaning officials must adopt a District Improvement Plan designed to improve key areas of concern. Annual Performance Reviews (APRs) will be monitored closely by state department officials.
  • Three of the 28 districts received District Improvement Level 2 sanctions, citing a higher level of concern by MSIP teams. Level 2 schools are under even greater scrutiny to demonstrate growth and improvement.
  • Thirteen out of 28—that’s more than 46%–of the school districts on a four-day schedule received District Improvement Level 3 sanctions – the most severe of all sanctions while still maintaining accreditation. In these cases, the last MSIP accreditation review revealed numerous serious concerns relative to program quality, student achievement, and other related indicators.
  • Of those 13 districts earning Level 3 sanctions, only two exceeded the 2018 Missouri per-pupil expenditure average. The remaining 26 school districts all are currently spending less than the state average per pupil. While not conclusive, these data suggest there is a correlation between the amount of funding school districts receive and student achievement.

So, what’s the bottom line?

A well-educated society is essential to a healthy, thriving culture. Without a solid educational foundation our skilled workforce will diminish, and entrepreneurs will look elsewhere. Our pool of thought-leaders and problem solvers will decrease, and over time the strength of our nation will be challenged.

Given the important role that our public schools have played in our nation’s success, it is imperative that we continue to recognize the need to fully fund them. School officials should not be forced into making tough choices that could jeopardize learning. Every single student in the United States deserves an educational experience that is second to none, regardless of the color of his skin, the native language spoken in her home, or the zip code in which they live. Every. Single. Student.

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Dr. Roberta Ross-Fisher is a national leader in quality assurance, educator preparation, and empowerment-based learning. She supports educational institutions and non-profit agencies in areas such as accreditation, competency-based education, and teacher/school leader prep programs design.  Roberta also writes about academic excellence and can be contacted for consultations, webinars, and on-site workshops through her site (www.robertarossfisher.com).

 

Top image credit: The Joplin Globe. 

Unhealthy People, Unhealthy Towns: A Healthcare Crisis in Rural America

The Chronicle of Higher Education is a nationally respected publication that serves the world of academia—primarily colleges and universities across the United States and abroad. Understandably, it tends to focus on topics of interest to faculty and administrators such as how to address current issues in course curriculum, funding challenges, federal regulations, and the like.  However, late last year the Chronicle published a piece that focused on life in an area of rural southeast Missouri known as the Bootheel; A Dying Town was grounded in research findings that connected the dots between education and health. The findings: “Educational disparities…economic malaise and lack of opportunity are making people…in the Bootheel sick. And maybe even killing them.”

Since 2014, eight healthcare facilities in rural Missouri have closed, including four hospitals. The most recent casualty is the only hospital in Ripley County, scheduled to close October 15, 2018. Nearly all have been located in the southeastern part of the state and the situation has been deemed as a crisis with no end in sight.

The most recent data from iVantage Health Analytics paints a bleak picture for healthcare not just in Missouri but in many states. As dire as the situation is in rural southeast Missouri residents of Mississippi, Texas, Louisiana, and Georgia have even higher rates of healthcare vulnerability.

Factors that Impact Closures

iVantage data confirm more Americans than ever before have access to the healthcare they need because of the Affordable Care Act, but considerable gaps remain. The group identified twelve Health Disparities metrics that make hospitals and clinics particularly vulnerable to closure:

  • Adult Obesity Rate
  • Child Poverty Rate
  • Unemployment
  • No Medical Insurance
  • Healthcare Costs
  • Smoking
  • Access to Affordable, Safe Housing
  • Access to Mental Health Providers
  • Diabetes Screening Rate
  • Access to Primary Care Physicians
  • Access to Dental Care Providers
  • High School Graduation Rate

 

Areas with the greatest percentage of health disparities are those most vulnerable to hospital closure. In other words, those who need quality healthcare the most are the ones who will be left behind.  

Far-Reaching Impact

The problem of closing hospitals and clinics doesn’t just mean residents will have to drive a little farther to see a doctor; it has far-reaching economic impact. When residents do not have access to quality healthcare, they aren’t able to work; this impacts local business and industry productivity. When they earn less money, workers don’t have as much to spend in local grocery stores, gas stations, or restaurants. When sick children aren’t able to go to school, local districts receive less funding. And, when facilities close, local residents trained in healthcare lose their jobs and are often forced to move elsewhere for work. In other words, unhealthy residents lead to unhealthy towns.

It’s Time to Roll Up Our Sleeves

The closing of hospitals isn’t just a rural Missouri problem—nor are poverty, housing, or the lack of education. There are towns all across our country in desperate need of resuscitation on many fronts. Every dying town takes a toll on its state, and eventually on our great nation. These problems are not going to take care of themselves, and it is essential that we tackle them together.

 

Dr. Roberta Ross-Fisher is a national leader in quality assurance, educator preparation, and empowerment-based learning. She supports educational institutions and non-profit agencies in areas such as accreditation, competency-based education, and teacher/school leader prep programs design.  Roberta also writes about academic excellence and can be contacted for consultations, webinars, and on-site workshops through her site (www.robertarossfisher.com). 

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