When Will Missouri Lawmakers Hear a School Choice Bill?
Last week, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch ran a headline declaring, “Plenty of talk, scarcity of answers when it comes to school choice in Missouri.” While I appreciate the coverage of the National School Choice Week event the Show-Me Institute co-hosted with the Children’s Education Alliance of Missouri, the Missouri Charter Public School Association, and StudentsFirst, the headline got it all backwards. What it should have said was: “Plenty of answers, scarcity of talk when it comes to school choice in Missouri.”
When it comes to school choice, the answers abound. Here are a few:
How do we improve educational options for students in unaccredited school districts? Allow charter schools to enroll students across district boundaries. This would give students whose needs are not being met, in unaccredited schools or otherwise, the opportunity to attend a charter school. It would also increase the likelihood that charter schools would open in unaccredited school districts.
How do we increase educational services for students with special needs? Emulate the education savings account programs created in Arizona and Florida. These programs provide the funds and flexibility that parents of special needs students need. The accounts function like a debit card that parents can use to pay school tuition, purchase educational resources, or pay for therapy.
How do we leverage greater private investment in education, expand options, and empower parents? Create a tax credit scholarship program. Seventeen tax credit scholarship programs exist. While the specific features vary from state to state, each program incentivizes individuals or businesses to support education, and they provide families with options. These programs empower parents to take charge of their child’s education and typically save taxpayers money.
Like I said, there are plenty of school choice answers. What we seem to lack in Missouri is school choice talk, especially among state policymakers. To date, not a single school choice bill has received a hearing in Jefferson City. Indeed, the “Equal Opportunity Scholarship” bill (a tax credit scholarship) seems to be collecting dust.
It’s time for Missouri lawmakers to have more conversations about school choice and hopefully take more action.