No matter what people tell you, these two terms are not synonymous. As a matter of fact, they are complete opposites. Under no situation can a state implement “school choice” while maintaining freedom. As many times as they say, ‘We can do it this time’, know that it is no different than saying, ‘Socialism will work this time if we just try xyz’.
Let’s start with the basics. Under current educational freedom, homeschools are not required to report or register with the state. They are not required to take nor submit standardized testing. They have the freedom to choose their curriculum and do not need it approved by anyone. They are required to complete 1000 hours of homeschooling and keep a logbook of such.
It is currently estimated that, at minimum, 11% of all school aged children are being homeschooled in the state of Missouri. That estimate may be as high as 22% due to the huge influx of freedom minded families who fled their liberal states in order to raise their children in a state more friendly to liberty. Private schooled children account for another 14%. All in all, as much as 36% of ALL Missouri school children are already out of the public school system. These families have chosen to sacrifice their own wages, budget better, and find any and all ways possible to pull their children out of the government run public schools.
Well, in 2021, Missouri decided to slap those families in the face and decide that they too wanted a part of those kids’ education. The 64% of kids left in public schools isn’t quite enough for them to feel in control of the system so the decision was made via vote to expand that system through HB349. This bill established the Empowerment Scholarship Accounts (ESAs AKA School Choice).
Thankfully they limited their reach to the charter counties or large cities. In addition to having to live in a certain locale, students must currently be in the system (Don’t worry, they’re not getting out through ESAs either) and must have an IEP. They can still get in without an IEP but must be low income. The goal in Jeff City every session from here on forward is to expand this bill.
There are a couple sections in this bill worth taking note. First…
- Ensure that participating students take the state achievement tests or nationally norm-referenced tests that measure learning gains in math and English language arts, and provide for value-added assessment, in grades that require testing under the statewide assessment system set forth in section 160.518
This description is much too vague and is left to severe interpretation. Which tests are going to be required? In the 1990s, in Pennsylvania, psych evals on the students were commonplace testing. Linda Darling Hammond, director of the education policy transition team for President Barack Obama in 2008 and for President Joe Biden in 2020, once stated that “…assessments must be based on attitudes, values, and mindsets.” Today we have tests with SEL and CRT and no one bats an eyelash. Now these too will be mandated to our private and homeschools.
If a requirement to teach to the test weren’t bad enough, a sneaky little phrase called “may promulgate the rules” snuck its way into HB349. This gave sole authority to the Treasurer (Scott Fitzpatrick) to write the rules and regulations AFTER the bill was passed. This is what many conservatives often call “Pulling a Pelosi” except in this case we can’t read it until we pass because we haven’t written it yet.
The Treasurer’s rules were extremely detrimental to homeschoolers participating in this true Trojan Horse. First off, you are no longer a traditional homeschooler, but must become a state certified homeschool with registration that must be approved…or not. Secondly, you must submit your curriculum and have it approved. Thirdly, you must submit all lesson plans, schedules, recorded hours, etc upon demand to the Treasurer and/or the Educational Assistance Organizations you are also now under.
If that weren’t enough, every single person residing in your home who is 18 or older must pass a background check. I sure hope you didn’t do anything stupid when you were a young adult or I hope your current young adult still living at home is living on the up and up; otherwise, no faux freedom for your kids.
You see, TRUE educational freedom doesn’t add regulation upon regulation upon regulation. TRUE education freedom believes in TRUE parental rights where a parent can teach their child the way that works best for that child and not the test, can choose the curriculum that best resembles their family’s worldview, and has mercy on those who may have had failures in their past. None of this is evident in Missouri’s version of school choice. When push comes to shove, not one state has implemented any version of school choice that hasn’t taken freedoms and liberties from students. If you want TRUE educational freedom, NEVER participate in the privatized government system set up by the same government who can’t even fix the public school problem they created through….wait for it… yep, more rules and regulations.
NEXT UP… School choice has an unelected school board. Who has a seat at the table?!