As we celebrate the Fourth of July this week, it is time for our annual reflection on what freedom really means for families in Missouri.
As our economy becomes more and more automated and based on digital knowledge, it is hard to argue that any real form of freedom (financial, social, legal, religious, etc.) is possible without access to a high-quality education.
Education is the foundation of our democracy and the key starting point for success in the future.
But the reality is that not all Missourians have access to the same education. Not all Missourians have the freedom to choose a high quality education that meets the needs of their students.
If you live in St. Louis City or Kansas City, then you have more freedoms than the rest of the state, because you have the freedom to choose a free public charter school for your child to attend if that is the best fit for your family.
If your family is affluent then you have the freedom to choose what school your child goes to. You may choose to pay to send them to a private school, or you may make a choice through mortgage — you may choose to move to a community that has a high-quality public charter or district school.
But for many Missourians — in many cases the ones most in need of a better pathway to the future — these freedoms are not a possibility. They cannot afford to move, they live in an area where charter schools are banned by artificial boundaries, and they cannot afford tuition at a quality private school.
Many of these Missourians still have access to a high quality district school and will get a great education, but we as a society are failing those who do not.
We are failing those students who are bullied or do not fit in at their assigned school and need a chance to attend a different school.
We are failing those students who have special needs that are not being met at their assigned school.
We are failing those students who have fallen through the cracks of a giant bureaucratic school system.
And yes, we are failing those students who are trapped in an underperforming school.
It is time that we as a society work together to provide more and better options for all of our students, to make sure that every student has the same freedom to choose the education that works best for them, because expanding school choice is not about eliminating failing schools, it is about making sure that we are not failing our students.
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