Parents have a responsibility to consider carefully the educational needs of their children and decide where those needs best will be met.
Fortunately for mothers and fathers in Southeast Missouri, the choices are many. In addition to public school districts with excellent reviews by teams from the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, there are top-rate parochial schools as well.
Some of these schools represent particular denominations. Some are non-denominational. But all have attracted parents who want their children to have something public schools can't provide.
Specifically, that is Bible-based guidance and Christian values.
The appeal is clear as more of these schools are constructed and as enrollments increase.
Catholic and Lutheran schools are the most common ones based on one faith, and both remain strong. They continue to attract a growing number of students of many diverse religious backgrounds.
Cape Girardeau County's Catholic schools have posted impressive increases over the past 10 years. Along with its new, attractive building on Route K, Notre Dame Regional High School has seen a 200-student increase since 1991. Immaculate Conception Elementary School in Jackson, Mo., gained 47 students in the same period.
Yes, there has been a decrease in the number of members of religious orders in the classroom of Catholic schools. That means the traditional image of habit-wearing nuns walking among rows of desks is all but gone. Instead, qualified laymen and laywomen have taken their place, committed to the same morals and values.
And even some Protestant teachers are in those classrooms, although they must earn a catechist certificate to show they have a basic understanding of Catholicism. They report acceptance among their Catholic peers.
Missouri Synod Lutheran schools prefer synodically trained teachers in the classroom -- those who have attended a Concordia college or university -- but they too have accepted more teachers from other denominations who have strong Lutheran backgrounds and proper educational qualifications.
At other Christian schools, certificates and ordinations aren't important at all for teachers. It's a strong relationship with Jesus that counts, said Janice Margrabe of Eagle Ridge Christian Academy.
In all cases, Southeast Missouri can be proud of its educational offerings and strong parochial-school heritage.