Reimagining Education

It is time for a common-sense conversation about school choice

The debate over how to provide a good education to children has gotten ugly over the past couple of years.

But school choice is not a partisan issue.

When you take the politics out of the school choice discussion and just talk about the best way to help kids get a good education three things are clear — choice programs expand the public’s access to education, students do better when they are in an education environment that fits their specific needs, and expanding choice can help traditional schools.

Making more schools available to the public

The reality is that school choice is NOT about destroying, eliminating, or harming public education.

In fact, school choice is about opening the doors to more education options for more members of the public. It is about EXPANDING high-quality education to the public.

If you have money then you already have school choice. You can choose to live in a district that has high quality district schools. You can choose to send your children to a private school. You can pay for tutoring and extra-curricular enrichment if your schools are not providing everything you think your child needs.

But if you don’t have money, then you have none of those options. You are stuck in the school assigned to you, no matter its quality.

School choice initiatives like charter schools and Empowerment Scholarship Accounts are designed to break down those economic barriers and give more families the opportunity to choose the best educational path for their children.

No magic cureall for education

School choice detractors frequently argue that if choice schools have a formula that works then traditional district schools should just imitate that formula and eliminate the need for alternatives.

It is true that there are many practices used in charter schools and private schools, like longer days and year-round schedules, that could help improve outcomes in some traditional district schools.

But there is no one solution that solves all of the needs of all of the students.

A good analogy is a drug store. While con-men have tried to peddle cure-alls for centuries, there is no magic potion that will cure your headache, your indigestion, your high blood pressure, and your vitamin deficiency all at one time. That is why you have different isles and sections to choose from in every drug store.

And there is no snake oil that will provide the best education for every student.

Some students will respond better to a school that has longer days and a longer school year, some will thrive in an arts-based education model, while others will feel more comfortable in a school where they can express their faith more openly.

This is why school choice is important, because every child learns differently and different schools can provide better education based on the needs of the child.

Funding choice is not defunding public education

School choice programs put the power of the purse strings into the hands of the people who are getting an education, not in the hands of the people providing it.

That means that charter schools and ESAs give families the power to spend the taxes they pay for education to get the education they know will work for their children.

And while those dollars may not go to a traditional school district, they are being used to educate the public and are removing the cost of educating those students from the district’s bottom line. Private schools already save Missouri school districts hundreds of millions of dollars each year.

States that have embraced school choice have found that opening the doors to both charter and private schools have actually saved districts and the state money — savings that can, in turn, be reinvested in district schools.

A recent study from the University of Arkansas shows that in the eight cities examined in the study, public charter schools outperform traditional public schools in both math and reading cost-effectiveness.

A 2016 study of tax-credit funded school choice programs found these programs saved states between $1.7 billion and $3.4 billion. And the fiscal note for a similar program proposed in Missouri estimated that Empowerment Scholarship Accounts could save the state $44 million and districts $97 million per year.

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