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Last week opponents of giving families more school options had a lot to say during a Senate committee hearing on an ESA bill.
The problem is that a lot of what they said was simply not true.
The false testimony started with Jefferson City School Board member Ken Enloe, who tried to convince the Senate Education Committee that all of the schools in Jefferson City were providing a high-quality education for their students.
“We don’t have failing schools in our district,” he told the committee proudly. “The board that I serve on, we take personal responsibility and accountability for ensuring that the schools in our district, the decisions that we make, result in schools that are doing what they’re supposed to do. From our role of managing and evaluating the superintendent right on down to every classroom we take very personally our responsibility for those schools being successful.”
Enloe even went so far as to support the idea of open enrollment to allow students from outside the district to come to Jefferson City to benefit from his “quality” schools.
“I would certainly entertain anything that would help the students and the kids that are trying to prepare for the future,” he told the committee.
Of course, as with most districts in the state, there are failing schools in Jefferson City.
In fact, the entire district does a pretty poor job of teaching basics like reading and math. Only 43.7% of Jefferson City students are proficient in English Language Arts and only 35.2% are proficient in math.
The district has one school, East Elementary, that is listed as one of the worst-performing 5 percent of Title I schools in the state, and two schools, Jefferson City High and South Elementary, which are considered targeted schools, schools where a student subgroup consistently underperforms.
When confronted by these facts, Enloe had little to say except that those schools were good schools.
Scott Kimble, a lobbyist for the School Administrators Coalition, tried to help Enloe out by blaming students, parents, and teachers for the poor performance in schools.
“Those students that come to that school come from incredibly difficult home lives and are, by and large, very far behind,” he said.
In a broader discussion about improving education in Missouri, Kimble also put blame on parents and teachers for poor academic performance. When asked about school choice, Kimble argued that parents should not be trusted with choosing a good school for their children.
“I’m not saying that parents can’t make the right choice,” he said, “but yes, they can make mistakes and do.”
Kimble agreed with Sen. Bob Onder that poor quality teachers are a detriment to education, and inferred that teachers in Missouri are of low quality because they are not paid well.
“We need to make sure that we have quality people in the classroom,” he told the committee. “We need to make sure that we’re opening up the tent for quality people to come into the profession. Who in their right mind wants to come out of school, that’s taken on all that school debt to take a salary for $28,000.”
When he was not trying to pin the blame for Missouri schools’ abysmal proficiency in reading and math on students, parents, and teachers, Kimble lied to the committee about the rigor of Missouri’s statewide assessment tests.
He argued that our proficiency rates are so low because the state has some of the most rigorous assessments in the country, and the problem could easily be fixed by lowering the rigor of the tests.
“We have the second-highest standards in the country,” Kimble claimed. “If we were to lower our state standards like Mississippi and other states to show that we have higher proficiencies scores are from a proficient or advanced course I’m sure that we could do that.”
The truth of the matter, as the Missouri Board of Education was informed on Sept. 17, 2019, is that Missouri has some of the LEAST rigorous assessment tests in the country.
For fourth grade, Missouri’s rigor ranks 47th in the nation in ELA and 38th in math. For eighth grade, Missouri’s rigor ranks 48th for ELA and is not even listed for math.
The truth is that families need more quality choices for education in Missouri and fewer lies from the people who are supposed to be ensuring our schools are doing their jobs.