The year 2020 only exacerbated the education gap that previously existed between various public school districts; the disparity that existed has only grown wider. That has been particularly evident here in Wentzville, where our school district has been slow to reopen classrooms to local students.
Just think what students from working families have lost out on from being forced to go online: They lose being able to go to school, to socialize, to receive a free or reduced meal, to participate in extracurricular activities. Meanwhile, parents who often work long hours also lost out on a student meal and the supervision for their child that schools provided. Furthermore, the technology requirements of online education can be very expensive. Some students’ home lives are ill-suited for online learning — at no fault of their own.
These glaring differences in the quality of education received by students based on their zip code and the wealth of their parents were bad enough in a regular year, but now we have reached the point where they can no longer be ignored. These disparities often exist along demographics, meaning that families that have historically been let down by the education system are only increasingly marginalized. Now is the time to act!
That is why Missourians of all stripes should support education reform, particularly charter school expansion and Education Savings Accounts (ESA). Charter schools are schools that receive public funding, but that operate outside the traditional state school system. Instead, the state “charters” the school with an education mission. The school receives public funding and goes about the business of educating students. Charter schools have proven invaluable in areas with failing school districts: Students who once had no choice but to attend a failing school are given hope in the form of a functioning charter school. Currently, the number of charter schools in the state are extremely limited. That is why the legislature should go about reforming current restrictions and allow for expansion.
Education Savings Accounts (ESA) from the state of Missouri would be like scholarships for families to flee failing school districts or those who are not meeting their educational needs — such as, not providing an in-classroom education to those that really need it.
I am thankful for the bold vision of education reform that House Speaker Rob Vescovo highlighted in his speech starting the Missouri Legislative session. He is joined and supported by our local state Rep. Justin Hill in these efforts.
Speaker Vescovo knows firsthand just how vital a good education is and just how hard it can be for students with unique needs to get the care and attention they need in a one-size-fits-all school system.
Right now, some school districts are setting up students to fail because they just cannot meet the needs of their students by providing in-classroom education. Education reform will change the current status quo of failure for some into one that gives hope to all Missouri families.
Lindi Williford is a mother of three with a child in each level of the Wentzville School District. She has been in the risk management and insurance industry for more than 20 years.