Hope on the Horizon for Missouri Students?
What a year. Last March 21, Governor Parson issued a statewide order to close every public school in Missouri due to the spread of the coronavirus. As we all know, schools, teachers, and parents were blindsided. And it took many districts months to figure out their plan for educating their students. Virtual learning for every student, learning pods, hybrid school schedules, no solid attendance numbers or test scores – these were unimaginable a year ago. Now, they’re old news.
It has not gone smoothly. Parents and teachers will likely point fingers at each other for the educational fallout from this year for some time to come. But students got the real short end of the stick. What do we imagine happened to kids whose parents simply couldn’t be available to help them learn virtually? How do parents who work outside the house full time manage a hybrid schedule? What happens to a struggling student who can’t stay after school and whose parents can’t afford a tutor? With no test scores from last year, how do we have any idea whether district plans worked or didn’t this year?
There is some good news out there. Quite a few Missouri legislators are determined to help parents right the ship. The Senate Education Committee has passed a bill that would create a scholarship program, with contributions to the scholarship fund receiving a 100 percent tax credit. It would also expand charter schools to other large communities in the state and make accessing the state’s approved virtual programs easier. The Senate Education Committee also passed a bill in which the same scholarships would simply be funded by the state. We’ll see if the full Senate will get behind these family supports.
The House Education Committee and the full House has also passed a tax credit scholarship bill and it now awaits Senate consideration. This was an historic vote and, the House stood up for parents and children.
As I have been saying for months, the public education system has suffered a crisis-level shockwave this past year. It will take bold ideas to support all students and all families, regardless of background, and to help them get the education services they need now. The “assigned-school-only” approach to public education fell apart for so many families this year. It’s time to make sure that every family has a bare minimum of two options by giving them access to scholarships, charter schools, and accredited virtual schooling.