Credit Where Credit Is Due
Show-Me Institute analysts have been saying for quite some time that parents need choices when it comes to their children’s education. Those who disagree have often relied on the ridiculous argument that giving parents choices will make bad schools worse, since anyone in their right mind would abandon them. But finally, we may be seeing reason from those folks.
The Missouri Board of Education released its 2022 Legislative Priorities and, surprisingly, giving families the option of enrolling in a district other than the one in which they live made the list. Interdistrict choice is not a new idea—44 states and the District of Columbia allow it—but it would certainly be new for Missouri. Currently, only students who can demonstrate that they have a transportation hardship due to natural barriers that make the distance to their assigned school farther away than a school in a neighboring district can apply for interdistrict choice. The state board of education, seemingly, would like school choice extended to every student, regardless of their transportation situation.
It should be said that it’s a tough time for public education in Missouri. District- and school-level test scores for the prior school year were released this week and an initial look at the data suggests the results are pretty dismal. In many districts there are not enough teachers, substitutes, or bus drivers. At a recent hearing of the Missouri Legislature’s Joint Committee on Education, the state school board association seemed to be at odds with the superintendents and even with rural educators—two groups with which it is typically aligned. Perhaps the news has made its way to Jefferson City that, for the near future at least, “it’s the parents, stupid.” Finally, parents are being heeded as a political force that shows up and votes.
Whatever the reason, I look forward to seeing the Missouri Board of Education press for its legislative agenda. I look forward to seeing members of the board in committee hearings giving testimony on the need for parents to have options beyond their assigned public schools. I look forward to joining forces in pressing for this policy. I hope that it is pursued with integrity.