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Opinion: I support school choice in areas with failing schools


By Sen. Cindy O’Laughlin

In many of our small towns throughout Northeast Missouri, public schools have a major impact on our lives. Rural schools are our biggest employers, and we’re blessed to have some of the best educators in Missouri teaching foundational values to our children.

The problem is that public school does not work for every student.

Did you know approximately 38 percent of public school students need remedial classes when they continue on into higher education?

What’s even more startling is that some students don’t make it to that point. In 2016, more than 10,000 students dropped out of high school. Those statistics are staggering. These are our children and grandchildren, and they deserve a quality education – not a “one size fits all” experience.

I believe every child deserves an excellent education regardless of where they live. That’s why I support school choice in areas with failing schools. Families must be able to choose what education delivery system best suits their needs. I know that can sound overwhelming, but it’s simple. If traditional public schools are failing our children, then those families should have options.

As a business owner, we have to make sure we have a product that is solid and of excellent quality. If we don’t, our business will fail and a better company will take its place. I am supporting our schools in Northeast Missouri to identify changes needed and am working with them to achieve those changes.

Charter schools are publicly-funded, independently-governed public schools. They allow for innovation in the classroom and greater accountability for students. Charters generally start when public schools fail.

Charter schools have successful education programs all over the country, but in Missouri, they’re limited to just Kansas City and the City of St. Louis. Currently, there are several bills being considered by my colleagues in the Missouri Senate and the Missouri House of Representatives that would grant permission for charter schools to operate in other areas that have failing schools. This would mean that for children in failing school districts, other options would be available.

Educational savings accounts, or ESA’s, are another component of school choice. ESA’s give parents the flexibility to tailor their children’s entire educational path to the right path for them. For children with disabilities, in military families and foster care, educational savings accounts permit options. Our most vulnerable population deserves our support.