Brittany Wagner
The Jefferson City News Tribune’s editorial board published an article yesterday called, “Changes in Public Education Complicate Pressing Choices.” They wrote, “We don’t mean to be alarmist, but change that is too much, too soon could dilute funding and resources now directed to public education.” The truth is, Missouri could not embrace change soon enough. The first modern voucher program was created in Wisconsin in 1989. Today, there are 24 different voucher programs. educTax credit scholarships for private schools were first established by the Arizona Legislature in 1997. Now, there are 20 programs. Arizona also established the first Education Savings Account (ESA) program in 2011. Now, five states have an ESA program, with Nevada recently passing the largest school choice bill to date. Missouri has none of these programs. We’re even behind when it comes to public school choice. Charter schools were first established in 1992 in Minnesota. In 1998, Missouri became the 27th state to adopt charter schools. More than 15 years later, we’re still debating whether they should be able to operate outside of Saint Louis and Kansas City. Technically, Missouri has only two forms of school choice: charter schools and interdistrict choice through city desegregation laws or district accreditation status. Even these programs have restrictive components, such as who is allowed to participate and where. The News Tribune said, “Other options are gaining momentum, including education savings accounts, virtual schools and year-round schools.” They are right, school choice programs are “gaining momentum” in other states. In Missouri, they are not gaining momentum fast enough. Missouri has yet to adopt even one of the available private school choice programs. An ESA bill received a hearing for the first time late this past legislative session. The News Tribune wrote, “Parents tend to be more concerned about the specific quality of their children’s education than they are about public education in general.” Well, the editorial board did an excellent job of not being alarmist. It doesn’t alarm me at all that parents want what’s best for their kids. What’s alarming is that the News Tribune seems to be more concerned about the public education system rather than whether or not all students receive a quality education within that system. They questioned “whether changes—driven by technology, parents and advocates of student-centered learning—will outpace public education’s ability to adapt.” The answer is no, changes to the system will not outpace public education’s ability to adapt, because any time a parent is able to direct tax dollars toward a service that fits their child’s needs, that’s public education.

About the Author

Brittany Wagner

Brittany Wagner was an education policy research assistant at the Show-Me Institute.