Reimagining Education

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Parent petition reveals broad need for school choice policies

Parents in the Rockwood School District, one of the most affluent and highest performing districts in the St. Louis region, are finding out what it is like to be trapped in a school system that is not meeting their children’s needs and ignoring their demands for a better education.

The district’s decision, led by recommendations set forth by the St. Louis County Health Department, to start the school year in an all-virtual format has led to parent outcry and an online petition demanding a 5-day-a-week in-person learning environment. The petition has already received over 3,500 signatures and close to 600 comments.

The comments highlight how a one-size-fits-all approach, even during a pandemic, is not the right way to provide education, mirroring concerns parents in poorer performing school districts have been raising for years in Missouri:

Parent Jennifer Millsap explains the need for parents to have more options best.

“Every family deserves to have a voice and a choice,” she writes. “We are all individuals with families and households that we have each built ourselves and know better than anyone else. Especially when it comes to a government who is trying to apply a one size fits all solution to our family safety and children’s education. You don’t know my family better than me.

“Let us choose what is right for our own families and unique situations,” she concludes. “I do NOT need YOU making decisions for my children that will affect their well being and my family’s livelihood.”

While the petition is focused on the battle over whether to provide in-person or virtual education during the pandemic, many of the commenters rightfully focus on concerns that their tax-dollars are not being used to provide an education that they feel is right for their own kids.

“Either resume school in person or return our tax dollars to us.,” writes Marsha Ponzar.

“Kids have to be in school,” argues Robert Phillips. “If not, refund taxes and let us choose our school.”

Other parents went so far as to propose some form of voucher or tax-credit program, similar to the Empowerment Scholarship Accounts CEAM parents have been championing for years.

“Open up or give me a tax credit to send them to private school,” said Chad Hulsey.

“Either resume school in person or return our tax dollars to us,” wrote Marsha Ponzar.

Rachael Collins really gets to the crux of educational issues in Missouri, whether it be concerns over the response to the pandemic, the continuing issues with poorly performing schools in Missouri, or just situations where what is provided by the district does not meet the needs of a family.

“Please give our children options for the education they deserve,” said Collins. “If the schools are unwilling or unable to do that, then provide vouchers for that child to make the best of it elsewhere.”

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