“What you heard today was the gasping of the past.”
That is how Scott Jensen, a spokesman for the American Federation of Children, described a litany of lies and misinformation presented to the House Education Committee by lobbyists and other education establishment apologists this week.
Jensen specifically called out Missouri School Boards’ Association lobbyist Susan Goldammer for claiming there were no accountability measures in proposed legislation that would help parents access charter schools in more areas of Missouri, create a private school scholarship program, and make it easier for parents to directly enroll in virtual education.
“One of the things I used to like to do when I was in the legislature was to read the bills, which is apparently an impediment for some people,” he said, explaining that the proposed legislation required state or national achievement tests for every student participating in the program and for the results of those tests to be shared with both the state Treasurer’s Office and the state legislature every year. Additionally, the legislation requires reporting of high school graduation rates, college acceptance rates, and a variety of financial accountability measures.
“In fact, this thing is just filled with all sorts of accountability measures, and you were told there’s no accountability in here,” said Jensen. “If you go on you can see in the bill that there’s a parental satisfaction survey. Not every public school is required to do a parental satisfaction survey and then report the results of what parents thought about the education that their children are receiving.”
Many members of the Education Committee also called education establishment defenders out on their misinformation.
Committee Chair Rep. Chuck Basye asked Goldammer if a 26 percent proficiency rating in math for fourth-grade students in Columbia Public Schools was proof of accountability for district schools working.
“Yes!” she emphatically replied.
Committee Vice-Chair Rep. Mike Haffner also presented Goldammer with a list of accountability measures in the existing charter school law after she claimed there was no accountability for charter schools.
Rep. Dan Stacy called Goldammer out for claiming that every child who leaves a traditional school for a school of choice would eventually return to a district school.
“I would suspect there would be some and I would hope there would be some,” he said. “I am all about the best education for a kid and I want them to find the best they can have. But to claim that most kids come back to public education when they leave, I find that extraordinarily hard to believe.
“That was a claim you made as if it were true,” he added. “There are claims that come from this community [education establishment] as if these things 100 percent cannot be questioned.
“To say that government-run monopoly schools are the only place that the public dollar can go that is tying the hands of parents who want to do the best for their children and have other options that may be better,” he later said. “I think the school district I live in is a marvelous school district. I think they do great. But I suspect there are kids it is not the best thing for and parents are in the best position to make that decision.”
Rep. Justin Hill told Missouri NEA lobbyist Otto Fajen that supporters of the education establishment needed to be honest with legislators.
“Whenever everyone’s honest maybe we get somewhere where everyone can agree on something,” said Rep. Hill.
Hill also pointed out that the establishment argument that elected school boards give parents power is a fallacy.
“Teachers elect school boards, teachers unions elect school boards, superintendents elect school boards,” he said. “The public is not falling for this anymore. I know my district is done. They are trying to take the school board back away from the teachers, away from the NEA. We all know who runs the April election.”
Rep. Haffner told Fajen that his claims that charter schools did not perform as well as district schools in the state was also simply not true.
“Ninety percent of the top language arts public schools in Kansas City and St. Louis? Charters. Eighty percent of the top mathematics public schools in St. Louis? Charters. Six of the top ten public schools in Kansas City and St. Louis? Charters,” he said. “The parents are talking because 46 of the kids in Kansas City public schools are in charters and the statistic that is really important to me is this — charter school students are 4.5 times less likely to transfer during the school year.”
Jensen told the committee there was a reason that anti-school choice pundits tried to mislead lawmakers with their testimony.
“What you’ve seen here today is not just a clash of facts from different sides but you’ve seen a clash of philosophies of educational thinking,” he said. “The establishment has been here all day defending one view, clinging to it hoping you’ll just keep sending more money to that old view and somehow they’ll get better results if you just keep sending them more money. If you look at what your parents were telling you today, they were giving you a different educational philosophy and they’re the ones on the right track. You heard one size does not fit all, that different children learn differently. All of us who have kids know that.
“Education is an investment in the child’s future,” he added. “It is not an investment in any institution it is not an investment in government. You want them to be able to reach their potential so why would you trap them in a system where they have a limited range of choices? When parents are empowered with the resources and the information to make the right choices for their kids to maximize their potential that’s the future what you heard today was the gasping of the past.”