Reimagining Education

ESA 101: ESA’s have higher accountability than district schools

This is part of a series of blogs focused on dispelling false information about Empowerment Scholarship Accounts

When was the last time your district school sent you a parent satisfaction survey? When was the last time they published the results of those surveys?

For parents fed up with how their districts have performed during the pandemic the answer to those questions is probably never.

But published parent satisfaction surveys are just one of the many accountability measures that would be mandated by law for proposed Empowerment Scholarship Account programs.

Under Senate Bill 55, an omnibus education bill that would create Missouri’s first Empowerment Scholarship Account program, scholarship granting organizations would be required to administer annual parent satisfaction surveys focused on both student achievement and student safety and share those results with the state treasurer and legislature.

The bill also requires the annual administration (and publication of results) of “either the state achievement tests or nationally norm-referenced tests that measure learning gains in math and English language arts, and provide for value-added assessment.”

The state treasurer would also be required to publish graduation rates for students participating in the program.

What really matters in accountability?

Are these the same measures required for public school districts? No.

Metrics, like attendence, that are used by public schools to lessen the impact of poor student performance on Annual Performance Reviews are not required by the ESA legislation.

Instead the legislation focuses on what really matters in education: Are students learning? Are families happy with the school? Do students feel safe? And, are students graduating?

Opponents of school choice argue that any alternative offered to Missouri families must follow the exact same guidelines as traditional district schools, many times demanding that those alternatives be controlled by the district school board.

But if families would not be showing up at the capitol in droves demanding better options if they wanted the same thing that was already being offered.

When it comes down to it, accountability is really about whether or not parents are happy with the education their tax dollars are paying for their children to receive.

That is why SB 55 offers a level of accountability that could never be found in the public school system.

Empowerment Scholarship Accounts create the biggest accountability measure possible: the freedom for families to say “You are not meeting the needs of my child so I am taking them elsewhere.”

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