OPINION ~ LETTER TO EDITOR
January 16, 2021
By Matthew Archer
Lee’s Summit families learned an awfully hard lesson this past year: the fact that a one-size-fits-all public school approach to education is not what is best for our students and children. The COVID-19 Pandemic has completely fractured our state’s education system and has exposed the glaring flaws that were just below the surface. Students and families throughout the state are now struggling through a completely revamped way of approaching education–untested methods and half-measures are being employed, and it is clear that many students in our education system are being left behind.
A few weeks ago, many parents from Lee’s Summit School District met in a town hall setting with state legislators discussing issues that parents and children face in LSR7. Family after family shared heart wrenching stories about how the COVID curriculum has completely failed them. In particular, parents lamented how an all-online format in public school has completely left their children behind, while witnessing local private schools safely operating in-person at full capacity, providing quality education within the exact same zip codes. Without fear of recall or legal retribution, Board of Education members have completely ignored community calls to review major life concerns of their children.
For instance, too many parents report children are suffering mental health breakdowns from this forced isolation: anxiety, eating disorders, depression, and anger are becoming the norm in households because of placing children in these social isolation chambers they call virtual classrooms. Students with special needs and individual education plans who used to have daily support from trained professionals are now told to watch a video at home and to complete an online exercise. Students receive very little time to interact with teachers, to ask questions, or to understand assignments has led to former honor roll level students now struggling to maintain passing grades.
None of these negative repercussions are the fault of students, parents, or teachers; all of us have been forced into this situation because administrators and bureaucrats decided this is the way things should be. The problem is that for many students, there is currently no alternative. Many families cannot afford the pricy tuition of private schools, and so are relegated to whatever public school system they have in place. Disallowing school choice has become untenable. COVID-19 has revealed exactly why Missouri families should be allowed a choice in education.
It’s simple really: taxpayer dollars should follow the students, not the schools. Taxpayers do not exist to benefit the public schools systems. Instead, our state education system is meant to provide families access to the education their children need. As parents witness public schools continue to beg for more money with diminishing returns, Missouri’s private schools provide high quality results at a lower cost per student average across the state: $13,582 per public student, $10,121 per student in private. We enrolled 3 of our children at Summit Christian Academy. They love their new school and haven’t missed a single day due to lockdowns. Our family couldn’t be more pleased. We would love for others who wish to share in that experience to have that option, but for many the financial burden is too great. That just isn’t right! Especially when money has been provided to the state for their education, but it isn’t available to use as parents see fit for what best suits their family’s needs. Far away bureaucrats and administrators are not in the best position to determine what is best for our children, that is a role for parents.
Now more than ever, our state leaders must take up the issue of reforming public education and introducing school choice into the system. This means expanding charter schools and allowing education tax credits that allow families to direct their resources to where their children need it most. We cannot put this issue on the backburner any longer. For the sake of our children, Missouri families demand school choice!
Lifetime resident, LSHS Alumnus, father of 3 elementary-aged students