As we celebrate Independence Day it is important to remember what independence really means, to remember that our country has a long history centered around the freedom to choose one’s own destiny.
Unfortunately, far too many students and families in Missouri do not have access to that opportunity because they are stuck in an outdated system of education that is designed to protect the status-quo and limit both opportunity and innovation.
As a result, thousands of students and families find themselves trapped in self-replicating structures of poverty and oppression, thousands are unable to achieve their true potential in the classroom and in the workforce.
The evidence is clear that the current system is not working:
Some would argue that the answer is to throw more money at the state’s schools.
This has been proven to not work over the past 40 years as school funding has steadily increased but student performance has remained the same, leaving us with the reality that one in 10 Missouri public school students is trapped in an underperforming school, and only 67% of Missouri children are proficient in English language arts and less than 50% are proficient in math.
What has worked time and time again is to give parents and students the freedom to attend the school of their choice.
Both St. Louis and Kansas City have seen improvements in student performance after charter schools have opened and thrived.
Both Normandy and Riverview Gardens have started to turn their school systems around (although they still have a long way to go) after parents fought for and won the right to have the choice to send their children elsewhere to get a better education.
Missouri’s experiments with providing parents choices through the transfer and VICC programs has even inspired traditional anti-choice advocates like Tony Messenger and Nikole Hannah-Jones to sing praises for how limited choice can make a real difference.
Isn’t it time we come to grips with the reality that we need to work together to reimagine what education should be for the 21st century?
Charter schools can offer students smaller classes, programs that are more focused on science and math or arts or languages, and provide teachers and administrators the freedom to develop new and innovative ideas.
Educational Savings Accounts can provide parents and students with funding to help them choose the support they need to succeed, whether it be helping to buy textbooks, paying for additional tutoring, or providing access to a private school.
And high performing traditional districts schools can continue to provide quality education to local neighborhoods if parents prefer that option.
All of these educational innovations exist right now. Some may work for some students and others may work for other students, but in a nation founded on freedom and choice, shouldn’t we give every parent and student the chance to choose the educational model that works best for them?
So as we celebrate our country with cook-outs and fireworks, as we fill our streets with flags and choose our best red, white and blue outfits, please take a moment to join CEAM’s growing network of advocates and help us fight for more choices in education no matter what your income is and no matter what zip code you live in.