In a carefully coordinated effort, Missouri school leaders have hatched a new plan to rehash old ideas. First, the Cooperating School Districts of Greater St. Louis (CSD) issued a position paper that calls for stopping school choice and increasing funding for traditional public schools. Then, the Missouri Association of School Leaders (MASA) released its legislative platform, which lays out a plan to stop school choice through “administrative trickery.”
Each plan attempts to come across as fresh by sprinkling in new ideas. However, the intent of these plans is a simple rehash of an old idea — stop school choice.
The CSD position paper boldly states that “St. Louis area superintendents urge the state to move beyond providing choice options.” They claim that school choice doesn’t work. “In the private sector, choice does create competition in the marketplace. It works there. But is [Sic] does not work in public schools, at least not in Missouri.”
Can choice and competition improve nearly every aspect of our lives except for education? The evidence would suggest otherwise (and yes, there is evidence that choice is working in Missouri).
The Friedman Foundation published a report detailing the studies on private school choice programs. They reported that 11 of 12 “gold standard” studies of voucher programs find positive benefits for all or some students. They also reported that choice and competition have a positive impact on the traditional public schools. At least that was the case in 22 of the 23 studies that examined the issue. Not a single study has found that students are worse off when schools face competition.
Is it possible that choice and competition work in education in other states, but not in Missouri? Not likely.
In fact, a study by the Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO) at Stanford University found that Missouri charter schools produced significantly larger learning gains than the nearby public schools.
MASA and the CSD ignore the evidence because they want to stop school choice. Thus, their plans are simply a guise for the same policies that brought us to our current predicament. We don’t need more of the same. Kids need choices and schools need competition.