Friday, November 23, 2007

Voice for Choice~Funding is NOT the issue!

The summer of '07 brought to light that Missouri indeed devotes enough funding to education (see CEE vs. State of Missouri). But that leaves many taxpaying citizens wondering why, if there's enough money out there, our schools are underperforming? Maybe the answer lies in HOW we spend the money we get and whether citizens are empowered with the CHOICE to seek out the eductation to which their children are entitled.

A great example of choice in the making is the recent resounding call by voters in a landfall victory in the Kansas City School District. 32,000 Missourians confirmed that Missouri parents and residents care about the performance of their local school district, after blowing out an election to transfer control of seven districts back to the local community. Voters overwhelmingly decided that transferring to their local district was best after nearly three decades of unanswered failure from the Kansas City Public School bureaucracy. The educrats wanted the system to continue with the status quo~but the parents did not.

Opponents of change like to attack vouchers and claim that voucher take money away from school districts that really need those funds. There is evidence however that vouchers do exactly the opposite. David Roland, of The Show Me Institute says in "Public Schools Improve! ", for all of the billions of dollars spent by public school systems nationwide in desperate efforts to improve their schools without disturbing the status quo, it was a low-cost choice program in Milwaukee (the city spends $12,000 per public school student, but only $6,500 per choice student) that has shown the most promise for improving public schools."

Mind you, vouchers are NOT where most of the work done in Missouri is centered. There is, however, much work being done in the area of giving parents the right to choose, expanding quality education options for students--especially those not being well-served by their current system: expanding providers, special needs education issues, virtual learning, etc. The education reform and school improvement discussion needs to be opened up to new ideas, quality providers and more efficient spending of tax dollars. While all of these options are being explored and vetted, parents with kids who are failing in unaccredited school districts need immediate support and better choices.

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