Friday, September 02, 2016
Billy Long: Our children deserve more than public schools
There are many reasons I support school choice, but the most important one is that it works. On April 29, 2016, I voted in favor of the Scholarship for Opportunity and Results Reauthorization Act (SOAR). This piece of legislation, which passed the U.S. House of Representatives with a 224-181 vote, reauthorizes the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program to allow parents to have more choice and control over their child’s education – something all parents should have control over.
School choice works and there are studies and data to back that up. A Johns Hopkins University study found that school choice programs saved local and state taxpayers $444 million from 1990 - 2006. Though saving taxpayer’s money is important, the competitive aspect of school choice incentivizes schools to take important steps to improve and become just as competitive.
The impact this has on student success is undeniable. Students participating in the Opportunity Scholarship Program have a 90 percent graduation rate, compared to an overall graduation rate of 58 percent in D.C. Additionally, the scholarship program has strong parental and community support, with 85 percent of parents reporting they are happy with their child’s current participating school and 74 percent of community residents supporting the program.
Sadly, that is not the case for Missourians. While many states are passing legislation that allows for different types of school choice options, Missouri has yet to pass legislation that addresses this issue. In 2014, Governor Nixon, for the second year in a row, vetoed school choice legislation in Missouri. Just as recently as 2016, the Missouri General Assembly tried and failed to pass school choice bills.
So why is there so much controversy? Powerful special interests and labor unions seem to think it is okay to dictate where our students, which are often disadvantaged, can and can’t go to school. Instead of looking at the facts and data presented to them, they would much rather fall in line with outdated thinking that is only hurting students.
I believe a good education begins with active, engaged parents that are allowed to make decisions at the local level. As the school year begins, we should all work to give students and families the options they want and deserve. Politics should never get in the way of a great education that each and every child is deserves.