James V. Shuls, Ph.D.
On Feb. 17, the Springfield News-Leader published an article I wrote about private school choice. In that piece, I tell the story of parents who are not satisfied with the quality of education their child is receiving. They would love to have their child in another school, but that is not possible because Springfield lacks school choice options unless parents are willing to move, can afford private school, or can take part in the district’s intra-district choice program. The parents in the story applied for a transfer within the district, to no avail.

In the article, I mention that their child attends a school where only one-third of all students are reading on grade level. Today, the paper ran a letter from the school’s principal, Adam Meador, which takes issue with my statements. "[W]e use many tools to measure student success. . . . James Shuls chose to focus on only one — MAP data . . .,” Meador wrote.

I need to say two things about this:

1. My calculations were based on the only publicly available data that I have access to, the school’s performance on the MAP (Missouri Assessment Program). The MAP is a standardized test that was developed with input from Missouri teachers. The scores on the MAP represent what Missourians have deemed that students should know or be able to do. If there is an issue with that, it should be taken up with the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.

2. This argument misses the point. The bottom line is not whether the school is doing poorly or well, but that the family is not satisfied. I have yet to see one argument against the actual crux of the article, that the private school choice programs can give parents the opportunity they deserve to send their child to a school that meets their unique needs at a cost savings to taxpayers and the public school district. By my calculations, the district could save more than $1.6 million if it contracts with private schools in the area.

About the Author

James Shuls
James Shuls

James V. Shuls is an assistant professor of educational leadership and policy studies at the University of Missouri–St. Louis and Distinguished Fellow in Education Policy at the Show-Me Institute.