If This Is a War, Who Needs Peace?
Apparently, Missouri is continuing its “war on public education.” According to a recent op-ed by a columnist at the Northwest Missourian, a House Bill (HB 543) that would give more Missouri parents access to a charter school is evidence of this war. In fact, according to the columnist, if the bill passes “it will be the next step in destroying public education.” The bill actually pertains to open enrollment, not charter schools, but other bills would expand access to charters.
Let’s look at some facts. The Missouri Legislature is currently considering a budget that will fully fund the education foundation formula next year even though many predicted doom and gloom for school finances. For the purposes of funding, Missouri public school districts get to use this year’s attendance (difficult to keep track of), last year’s, or the year before. In other words, they get to pretend that no parents got fed up with their district’s educational offering this year and left— something we know is not true.
In addition, Missouri has received approximately $2 billion in federal stimulus money in the past year, 90 percent of which is required to be distributed to school districts. That’s nearly $2,500 per student in additional funding beyond the $11,000 average expenditure per student in Missouri. The supposed war on public education seems to involve giving public schools a lot of money.
But here’s the real deal—the public education establishment doesn’t want to give parents a way out. Here’s a direct quote from the op-ed: “There is only so much money to fund public education, and increasing the parents’ choice in where their child goes to school will bleed established districts dry.” Wow. Katie bar the door!
We all know that parents with the means to do so already choose where their child goes to school. They choose by moving. So, what this columnist is railing against is evening the playing field for everyone else. The op-ed points to Hickman Mills, a district that serves mostly disadvantaged students, as one of the districts that will be hurt by this bill just when they’re “already so close to getting things together.” Do you want to send your child to a district that is so close to getting things together? Neither do I. Parents in Hickman Mills deserve to choose whether they’re willing to wait for that to happen or to enroll their children somewhere else, like a charter school.
It is the rare parent who sees their role as the protector of their school district and its finances. Most parents I speak with just want to do the best they can for their children. Using inflammatory rhetoric and fearmongering to restrict them is a tactic that could easily backfire.