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Rodney Hubbard is not only unapologetic about his pro-voucher stand for the St. Louis city schools, and not contrite about taking $30,000 from Rex Sinquefield, he is passionately ready to defend his ideas. 

I interviewed him by phone on Monday about his candidacy for Maida Coleman’s state senate seat.  As soon as I explained that I represented a progressive state news blog, where many of our readers would disagree with his stand on school choice, Rodney went on the offensive.  He was fortunate enough to be a deseg student, able to get a decent education, he said.  Today’s students in the city don’t have that option, what with superintendents in all the surrounding districts refusing to take city students at their schools.

So the city’s poor have no other option than to attend substandard schools.  Those who aren’t poor can move or send their kids to private schools.  As proof that people who aren’t poor flee the schools, he pointed out that 58 percent of the city population is African-American, but 90 percent of the students are.

He asked me how I and others could call ourselves progressives and not deal with the travesty going on in the city, where 70 percent of African-American males drop out before graduation.  Rodney would like to take such progressives on a tour of inner city schools and streets to show them what really goes on.

Hubbard is concerned about the high rate of incarceration in the African-American community and points out that 65 percent of those in prison have no high school diploma or GED.  Obviously the crime and the failure of education are linked, and we ALL–whether we’re Republicans, progressives or indifferent to politics–pay the price of neglecting this segment of society.

Because of the lack of educational options for city students, Hubbard is sponsoring a bill that will ask for tax credits–but credits that are narrow in their scope.  To qualify for the tax credit, a student’s family would have to live within the city limits of St. Louis or Kansas City–in those two locations only.  The student would have to qualify for free or reduced lunch and have a G.P.S. lower than 2.5.

I’m sure some of you will respond to what Rodney said.  I hope he will find the time to answer some of your comments.

I’ll write tomorrow about other topics we covered in the interview, but I didn’t want to bite off too big a chunk today.  This posting isn’t long, but there’s plenty of food for thought and comment in it.

(Next week, I’ll interview Robin Wright-Jones.)