In January 2011, Mike McShane and I co-wrote our first opinion editorial for a Missouri newspaper. At the time we were in grad school at the University of Arkansas, but still keeping an eye on our home state. We followed up with another piece, “A to-do list for legislators,” one year later. In both pieces we argued that Missouri lawmakers should expand educational options for students.
Since then, we have continued to advocate for these policies. Though we have had some small successes, the policies of today are very similar to the policies of 2011. Charter schools are still very limited and still confined to Saint Louis and Kansas City, we do not have a private school choice program, and students have relatively few options. But support for choice is growing. We regularly hear wonderful stories of students thriving in charter schools or benefitting from inter-district choice. And we are starting to see other voices advocating for broader school choice policies.
For example, Steve Spellman, a financial services professional, recently penned an op-ed that appeared in the Columbia Missourian. In his piece, Spellman spoke about how parents will often move or illegally change their address so their children can attend the public school of their choice. He argued for many of the same policies that McShane and I wrote about back in 2011 and 2012. It is exciting to see Spellman and others picking up the mantle of school choice.
Last year a school choice bill made it further than ever—passing out of the Missouri House—and received a hearing in the Senate. I suspect support for school choice will continue to grow in the coming years. As one of our professors from the University of Arkansas, Jay Greene, recently wrote, “the great political virtue of school choice is that it generates its own constituents…” When people have school choice, they want to keep it. We aren't there yet, but the drumbeat for increased educational options is getting louder.