JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – Advocates have pushed the state legislature to enact more robust school choice policies that would allow families to make decisions about where their children have attended school for many years, but now they are taking the fight to grassroots during the interim.
Forums have been held across the state from Macon, Jefferson City, Columbia, Stockton, Joplin to Springfield to strengthen grassroots support for school choice. In these and other cities, they have reached out to Republican and conservative groups as well as GOP activists, to gain a more substantial base.
“As of right now, we have hit 11 different counties at 13 forums and the Republican base is getting excited about these ideas,” Kristian Starner, education reform advocate, said.
With a Republican president and governor who are both influential proponents of school choice, it should be easy for Republican legislators to unite and attempt to push those programs forward. Yet, Rep. Rebecca Roeber’s charter school bill, which would have enabled schools to gain a charter in any area with a building with a score of 60 percent or less, had just enough votes to pass through the House.
“It’s interesting that many conservatives are unfamiliar with school choice options and they are unaware that policies such as Education Saving Accounts and charter school expansion are supported by our Governor and President,” Starner said, saying also the response is positive.
According to some, opposition from outlets closely tied to educational organizations can play a part in creating an environment where Republican legislators feel they need to distance themselves from the topic of school choice making circumstances difficult to get influential legislation passed.
“The discussion in the Capitol should be that the money intended for education should be following the child, and that we can have strong public schools and we can also have options for the people that want to have school choice,” Starner explained.
According to Starner, advocacy groups are going to continue to promote school choice in legislation moving into next year. These groups will also be focusing on the importance of course access and virtual schools and roles that they play in student education.