Giving parents options is the free-market approach to education

By Jeff Myers, State Representative
Posted 11/25/23

Missouri State Representative Jeff Myers, who represents Warrenton and Warren County, wrote this opinion piece on school choice.

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Giving parents options is the free-market approach to education


There have been many firsts for me over the past year. Learning the ins and outs of the legislative process, achievements both big and small, researching, reading, and discussing issues I knew cursorily, or some I knew very well. One of those topics that I knew cursorily was school choice. It’s an area I put a lot of time and thought into as I came to understand the issue. In an effort to provide some understanding of my position I wanted to share those thoughts. 

For many of our friends and neighbors, public schools are the right place for their children to be educated. In our small towns, the public school is the center of the community. Unfortunately, a one-size-fits-all approach to education doesn’t work well for the entire state or for every child.

In Missouri, we should provide options for school choice so families choose an education that fits their children’s needs. I believe so strongly in our public schools and their ability to serve students, that I know providing some families a choice will not hurt our public education system. Legislators, like me, can be pro-education and pro-education options. 

School choice provides families with the flexibility to choose the best educational environment for their children. This could mean traditional public schools, charter schools, private schools, virtual schools, and homeschooling. The key is putting the power back into the hands of parents, allowing them to make decisions based on what they believe is best for their children.

I believe that we can, and should, agree that one-size-fits-all does not fit all when it comes to education. Each child is unique, with different learning styles, interests, and needs. School choice recognizes this and acknowledges that parents are in the best position to understand their child’s individual requirements. By allowing parents to choose the educational setting that aligns with their child’s needs, we can foster a community where every student can thrive.

Critics likely will argue that education freedom might divert resources away from public schools, but the reality is quite the opposite. When parents have the option to choose, schools are incentivized to improve and innovate to attract students. Moreover, school choice promotes economic empowerment by allowing parents to invest in their children’s education. Education is an investment in the future, and when parents can direct their education dollars to the school of their choice, they are more engaged and invested in their child’s success. This active involvement creates a positive ripple effect, strengthening the entire community.

In some of Missouri’s urban areas, the ultimate outcome of our public school system is prison or death. Many kids graduate without being able to read or write.

Here in Rural Missouri, we pride ourselves on our strong sense of community, and school choice aligns with our values of individual freedom and personal responsibility. Giving parents the freedom to make decisions that impact their children’s education falls in-line with that personal responsibility. The fears of schools using school choice as a tool for recruiting for athletics fails to account for the above mentioned sense of community. 

This is why I believe that school choice programs that have seen success in Missouri’s urban areas should be expanded. The Missouri Scholars Program was started last year and allows for qualifying families based on need to receive a scholarship for $6,375 to use towards the educational needs of their children, like tuition. The reality is that many members of our community don’t qualify for this program or wouldn’t use it because they are satisfied with their public education. 

However, for the few that need a different option for their children, this scholarship is essential to provide another option. Unfortunately, right now only residents of St. Louis City, St. Louis County, St. Charles County, Jefferson County, Clay County, Jackson County, Cape Girardeau, Columbia, Springfield, Jefferson City, St. Joseph, and Joplin. There’s no reason why our area of the state shouldn’t also be included in that list.

As your representative, I am committed to supporting policies that prioritize the well-being and success of our community. I am committed to making the public schools in our area the very best that they can be. To me, this is not a partisan issue. It’s about putting our children first and ensuring they have access to the best possible education. I urge you to consider the benefits of school choice.

Rep. Jeff Myers represents Missouri’s 42nd District, encompassing Warren and Montgomery Counties, in the state House of Representatives. He can be reached at 573-751-2689 or Jeff.Myers@house.mo.gov.

missouri, school, choice, opinion, jeff myers