Part 1: Expanding School Choice Is A Choice
Missouri Senate Bill 125, which goes into effect on Aug. 28, will change Missouri’s state education policy. The law will allow the State Board of Education (SBOE) to intervene in unaccredited school districts more quickly and with greater authority. The SBOE can now take over an unaccredited district immediately instead of waiting two years. The SBOE can choose to leave the existing district board in control or appoint a temporary special administrative board (SAB). SB 125 could be good or bad news for school choice, depending on how SBOE leaders decide to use it.
Simply putting a SAB in charge is not a long-term solution. Failing schools are a result of systemic problems in the public school system. If new management does not change the fundamental structure, then districts are likely to lapse into their old ways once local boards regain control. In that case, SB 125 effectively shifts unnecessary power to the state, which could be bad news.
However, when a SAB takes over a district, it has the opportunity to make systemic changes. For example, the SAB in Saint Louis recently chose to diversify its portfolio of schools by forming a partnership with KIPP. Decisions like these that promote school choice are forward-thinking, lasting solutions. If the state uses its new authority to expand school choice, then SB 125 is good news.
Though there is hope that SB 125 could lead to better options for students, it overlooks an important issue. Too much time is spent focusing on district accreditation, when the spotlight ought to be on the individual school. More on this in my next post.