Our Opinion: Missouri shows commitment to school choice

Earlier this year, Missouri Gov. Mike Parson signed into law legislation to let students use scholarship money to attend the school of their choice.

It's a significant piece of legislation, and while it hasn't been implemented yet, the state is showing its commitment to doing so.

As we recently reported, Missouri Treasurer Scott Fitzpatrick created a new position within his office to implement and oversee the state's first school choice program, called the Missouri Empowerment Scholarship Accounts Program. It's also known as MOScholars.

Kim Baughman, previously the community finance manager within the Missouri Department of Economic Development, was chosen for the role and began serving Monday.

She will also supervise the state's other savings and investment programs, including MOST, Missouri's 529 education plan; and MO ABLE, the state's savings and investment program for disabled people. She also will oversee Show-Me Checkbook, the financial data transparency portal in the Treasurer's Office.

MOScholars provides state tax credits to individuals and businesses that donate or make contributions to nonprofit Education Assistance Organizations.

Qualifying students can then apply for scholarships from the Education Assistance Organizations to attend a K-12 school outside their public school district.

The legislation provides for up to 10 Education Assistance Organizations to award scholarships, but they have not yet been picked.

The fact is the quality of public schools varies depending on where you live. And, regardless of their quality, there are factors that make other options better for some children.

The American Federation for Children said every 60 seconds, a child drops out of a public school in America, which is lagging behind more than a dozen other nations in math and literacy.

Missouri families have asked for - and deserve - more of a choice in schooling, regardless of their financial situation. For some students, charter schools or private schools might be the answer. For others, virtual learning or home-schooling might be best.

We commend the governor, Treasurer's Office and other state leaders who are working to give Missouri families such choices.

News Tribune