Advocates of school choice attend forum

By Herald-Whig
Posted: Apr. 25, 2017 8:50 am

HANNIBAL, Mo. -- Parents of young students and adults concerned about competition among schools attended a School Choice Missouri forum Monday hosted by Northeast Missouri Conservatives.

Peter Franzen, associate executive director of the Children's Education Alliance of Missouri, a nonprofit that advances education policies, discussed charter schools, education savings accounts, and other school choice options, such as online learning.

"Charter schools are valuable in the right situations," Franzen explained. "When you have an actual person with an actual child with an actual problem, that beats any statistic."

Missouri House Bill 634, which has passed in the House of Representatives and is now being heard in the Senate, would allow charter schools to operate in any school district, not just Kansas City or St. Louis.

Franzen told attendees at Monday's forum about how a boy with Asperger's syndrome found academic success after leaving his public school. He also provided several examples of how school choice made a difference in the education of students in St. Louis' Normandy School District, which received national attention a few years ago for poor school performance, leading to the State Board of Education assuming oversight of it.

Franzen added that "HB 634 would allow charter schools to be started wherever they are needed. We really just want kids to have quality access to education."

Having quality education is a priority for Shannon Woodruff-Pryor, a mother of three.

"The oldest, 5, will start school this fall in the Hannibal School District. When I first moved here (from Alaska), I looked for area charter schools," Woodruff-Pryor said, explaining that charter schools are common throughout Alaska. "School choice affects me. I'm concerned about my kid going to a school in the district without good test scores."

Paul Tomko, who once lived in California, advocated his belief in school choice to attendees.

"We've been involved in charter schools, public schools and the home school system. School choice allowed my son to succeed," Tomko said. "We have room for improvement (in education) here. I think competition among schools is great."

Geri Graves, a mentor in public schools with Families and Communities Together, agreed with Tomko, saying, "I think we have good teachers here, but public schools shouldn't be afraid of some competition."

The Hannibal School District has opposed school choice legislation. Superintendent Susan Johnson and other School Board members have traveled to Jefferson City to meet with local representatives to voice concern over the bill.

Many public school districts and the Missouri School Board Association oppose expanding charter schools throughout the state because they say charters are not held to the same accountability standards as public schools.