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Letter: Failure of education 'reforms' is win for public schools

Letter: Failure of education 'reforms' is win for public schools

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Last day of the Missouri Legislature’s 2021 regular session

Missouri Speaker of the House Rob Vescovo presides over the House floor on Friday, May 14, 2021, on the final day of the current legislative session at the capitol building in Jefferson City. Photo by Christian Gooden, cgooden@post-dispatch.com

Missouri’s House speaker, Rob Vescovo, started this year's legislative session by declaring education reform a top priority. He threatened his colleagues’ legislation should they not support his education reform efforts. Many education reform bills were filed — open enrollment, diversion of public school funding to charter schools, expansion of charter schools and one big omnibus bill that wrapped them all up. Charter school advocates like the Missouri Public Charter School Association and multimillion-dollar organization the Opportunity Trust had big teams of registered lobbyists pushing these bills. Yet, in spite of Vescovo’s best efforts, only one bill, which received a significant funding reduction, sits on Gov. Mike Parson’s desk.

The failure of these efforts is a huge win for public school advocates. Organizations such as the Missouri School Board Association rallied rural, suburban and urban districts to fight the school choice agenda. Teachers unions such as the American Federation of Teachers’ Local 420 and 691, as well as the Missouri National Educators’ Association, led the charge against education reform and reducing standards for teacher certification. Parents and stakeholders all across the state contacted their legislators and explained the impact these bills would have on their children. Solidarity among public school districts, their teachers’ unions, and those who they serve won the legislative session.

More attacks will come from monied interests seeking to further privatize education in Missouri. For now, public school advocates should celebrate and recharge for the fights to come.

Ben Conover • St. Louis

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