Education remains a top priority of many folks at the state Capitol. At the same time, we are looking at ways to streamline state government, which also means making the best use of the taxpayers’ money with every decision we make.
Missouri senators established a committee two years ago to take public testimony on open enrollment. Witnesses in rural areas seemed to prefer the idea while suburban districts opposed. But this is all that has happened. To this date, open enrollment is not even a bill in either the House or Senate.
Interestingly, the mostly liberal lobby corps that represents public education in Jefferson City has used this and other issues to alarm the education community statewide. Many of these individuals have been in the Capitol before the days of a conservative majority and struggle to keep their ideological differences out of the information they provide to the folks they represent. In my opinion, these folks are failing the teachers, administrators and most importantly the students that they represent in many ways.
Unlike the teachers and administrators in our local districts, these special interest groups seem to believe the quality of education is simply a function of more money. Providing a world-class education to our kids, regardless of where they live, is more than about money — it is about training a skilled workforce for the future. The consequences are too high to not get this right.
Simply put, open enrollment allows folks who live in one school district to enroll their children into another district. We have a lot of folks who live closer to a school in a neighboring district, but have to drive and have their kids ride a bus for two or three hours each day, just to attend the school they are assigned to in their district. Competition and specialization among districts is another advantage.
Opponents of open enrollment are concerned this will lead to an unbalanced flow of students to certain districts. After a while, test scores could be better in one district over another, causing one district to fail. It also could lead to certain schools getting a bad reputation, through no fault of their own. Students with special needs that may cost more to educate would also present some challenges to the idea.
In my opinion, local control should be a priority, if this legislation is to be fully considered. Local districts should be able to decide if they have the room for additional students and the state’s funding should follow them. There will be winners and losers in open enrollment; parents who want to play games with their child’s future and put athletics over education quality will not benefit in the long run. Transportation should be the responsibility of parents, not the receiving school.
I am not sure if open enrollment will go anywhere during this legislative session. In the Senate, our primary concern is jobs and the budget. Items outside of this agenda will probably struggle to carry momentum through the legislative process this year. Whatever happens, I pray our leaders make the right decision for Missouri’s working families, our students and our future.
Friday, February 11, 2011
Stouffer: Open enrollment is the right way to go
In a rambling report, Sen. Bill Stouffer, R-Napton, tells why he favors open enrollment for Missouri schools and why those evil liberals oppose it: