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Open letter: More education options for Missouri families will lead to a skilled workforce ready for Missouri’s Future

Dear Senators-elect, 

Congratulations on your election to the Missouri Senate. I can tell you it is one of the most amazing experiences that could ever be bestowed upon a Missourian and should never be taken lightly. 

You worked hard to get to the senate and I know you’re hoping that we can make true progress on the issues that matter the most to our state. Many of you campaigned as conservatives. In one way or another, you all supported reforms for our courts, workers and our schools – for more economic growth, freedoms and free market principles. 

Though I share each of those priorities with you, I also believe we have a unique ability to make a lasting impact on our state by creating an innovative and choice-filled education system that will drastically improve student outcomes. While our support for this endeavor is what separates the true reformers and conservatives in the senate from the rest, we also have allies from across the aisle that know that the status quo is failing their constituents as well.

If we are going to help Governor Parson achieve his goal of improving this state’s workforce, we must work together to create a world-class education for all our kids, regardless of where they live.

Nearly half of Missouri’s public school students are below grade level. As leaders in this state we owe it to both the students and our state’s employers to help right the ship. Missouri earned a C- on the Quality Counts 2018 State Report Card which means Missouri’s students are not getting the skills they need to succeed. 

If we fail to focus on K-12 education as part of a workforce development strategy for Missouri, it will cost us. Businesses will move to states with a more qualified workforce. The loss of jobs and inability to grow wages will result in crumbling communities. 

As Senators, we should keep these things in mind and we should not consider this legislative session a success unless we are successful in reforming our k-12 schools by infusing school choice and innovation. 

As you know, fighting against the status quo is never easy and it will take strong leaders to get these things done, but our state literally cannot afford not to. 

As Senators, we each have a unique ability to ensure that providing high quality schools and strong accountability is accomplished during the 2019 legislative session. We should all ask ourselves and those who serve as leaders in the senate, when and how we will take a stand on these important issues. 

Republicans have largely stuck together on issues like reforming our courts, our tax structure, and our labor laws to help put Missouri back to work. It’s time we do the same with school choice. 

I hope you will join me in working towards meaningful school reforms for our state for a more skilled workforce. Our future depends on it. 

— Senator Andrew Koenig

This open letter appears in the January 2019 Missouri Times Magazine.