Reimagining Education

St. Louis moms ask legislators for more education options

As the rest of St. Louis worried about getting to work on icy roads on Wednesday morning, four St. Louis moms had another reason for getting on the road.

Lisa Smith, Jocelyn Clark, Joy Edwards, and Del-Rio Swink-Lee, headed out of the city with a mission — to meet with legislators in Jefferson City and share the struggles they have gone through to get a good education for their children.

Over the course of the day, the group met with six legislators and stopped by the offices of three others, talking about their personal experiences and how programs like expanded charter school access or Empowerment Scholarship Accounts (ESAs) could help other families like theirs.

Lisa Smith told legislators about her struggles in the Riverview Gardens district. Her son experienced bullying and when she tried to speak up about issues in the school she was banned from all school property.  Her son was able to transfer to the Mehlville school district through the transfer program. He is excelling in school now, but charter schools or ESAs would allow him to go to school closer to home.

“School choice is paramount in North St. Louis County,” she said.  “Parents want Charter Schools expanded to North St. Louis County. We are the taxpayers. We are tired of paying taxes for our children not to receive a quality education. Our children are not zip codes or dollar signs. They are the future.” 

Jocelyn Clark told legislators she was astounded at the issues in the schools when she moved to St. Louis from another state. She said her children experienced bullying and inadequate teaching before they were able to transfer to Valley Park through the inter-district transfer program. They are now in Francis Howell and are excelling. 

“It would be negligent and insane for me as a parent to even consider placing my kids in an unlearned chaotic educational system,” she said. “I’m a wise advocate for my kids. I’m for school choice and Empowerment Savings Accounts. Let’s do what’s best for children and not ourselves because excellent education is for no kids to be left behind.”

Joy Edwards told legislators how she has worked to get her four children into the schools that best fit them. Her children currently attend three different schools — two charter schools and a neighborhood district school.  But Edwards said she is concerned about what her children will face when they get to high school.

“I am worried they’re not going to get the education they need and deserve,” she said. “High school gives you a kick start to a good life, so that’s extremely important. It’s preparing you for the world.”

Edwards is looking at two private schools as possibilities for her children’s high school career but said that the cost could be prohibitive. 

“They are very expensive,” she said, adding that Empowerment Scholarship Accounts would make a big difference for her family. “ESAs would help to afford tuition and other things they would need.”

Del-Rio Swink-Lee currently homeschools her daughter using virtual education after her daughter dealt with bullying in school. She hopes to have her daughter attend Cardinal-Ritter in the near future and told legislators that ESA’s would be a big help.

Keep an eye out for a guest blog from Del-Rio Swink-Lee about what it was like to visit the capitol. 

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