The Shift Toward Parents Continues
Although teachers’ unions have been around for over one hundred years, collective bargaining and teachers’ strikes really began in about 1960. That’s when the structure of teachers as organized labor began to develop and grow. After more than half a century of turning nearly every child over to the public school establishment that teachers’ union leadership created and controlled, parents are slowly, but surely, taking back some of their power.
Arizona is one of the states that has been courageous enough to trust that parents can and should decide which school their children attend, regardless of their address. Arizona legislators started the first Education Scholarship Account (ESA) in 2011. Now, they have made the very bold move to expand it to every student in the state. You read that right—every Arizona student, if they choose, can opt to directly receive $6,000 in state funding to use at the private school of their choice.
Arizona already has a large network of more than 550 charter schools throughout the state serving 215,000 students. It also has tax-credit scholarship programs for low-income students and students with disabilities, and an open enrollment program. In the 2020–21 school year, more than 90,000 scholarships were awarded through these programs. Currently, there are just over 6,000 students using the Arizona ESA program, but that number is likely to increase dramatically. Given that there are just over one million public school students in Arizona, over one third are already participating in publicly funded school choice. Props to Arizona for opening it up to everyone.
Missouri has about 850,000 public school students. Currently, about 25,000 students attend a charter school in just two out of 520 public school districts in the state. Last year, nearly 4,000 students enrolled in the Missouri Course Access Program (MOCAP) virtual program. Beginning this fall, the Missouri Empowerment Scholarship program will go into effect. About 3,500 scholarships granting up to $6,375 per student will be available to those who qualify. Even considering the 14,000 students in magnet schools, fewer than one in 20 Missouri parents can choose their children’s school without paying tuition or moving.
If Missouri is going to make any real progress in turning around our flat test scores and declining enrollment, we need to be an attractive state for families to raise their children. We need to trust parents and give them dominion over their children’s education and education dollars.