The same philosophy that helped confirm Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education is in control of the Missouri Legislature.
What That Means
Public education in Missouri is under attack. This attack comes in the form of reduced funding, vouchers for school choice, charter school expansion, and limitations of teacher rights and due process.
These attacks harm Missouri’s economy, too. Job creators care about a number of things, but at the top of the list is a skilled workforce. Companies are not willing to invest time and money in a population that doesn’t invest in itself. Missouri’s public education system is that investment. We need to expand public education and vocational training, not reduce them.
In the Missouri State House of Representatives, House Bill 634 has been passed and is currently being reviewed by the Missouri State Senate. It provides a broad scope to establish charter schools all across the state. Missouri has 39 charter schools right now. Using DESE (Department of Elementary and Secondary Education) standards, 6 of these schools would be unaccredited, while another 11 would be provisionally accredited. However, DESE doesn’t accredit charter schools.
The Missouri Public School system has a different score. Out of 517 schools, 511 have full accreditation. Another 5 have provisional accreditation, with only 1 school that does not have accreditation. In Michigan, where Betsy DeVos is from, charter schools are not doing any better. With over $1 billion in public funding, charter schools in Michigan are leaving students behind.
The Senate is currently considering a bill that will help remove money from public schools. Senate Bill 313 will allow parents to get refundable tax credits for putting money into so-called savings accounts designed to pay for charter schools. Senate Bill 313 will cost the state $25 million dollars; it could grow up to $100 million over the next 10 years if enacted.
There are even conversations about taking Title 1 funds and using them to fund school voucher programs. Moving Title 1 funds to vouchers would shift it away from poor, vulnerable students, and toward those who are more affluent.
Public Education in Missouri Works
But it doesn’t work in a vacuum. Without state support, school districts will be forced to make tough decisions:
- Cut necessary student services
- Increase local levies
Neither of these outcomes are ideal. Rural school districts already pay high levies to support local education. Rising levies will quickly force school closures and consolidation.
The End Goal
Privatization of all public education, or “education for profit” is the end goal for these policies. Public education enhances local communities. Privatizing schools will prioritize the bottom line over student’s needs.
That’s wrong for Missouri.