school choice forum

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COLUMBIA - School choice proponents joined forces with the Cole County Republican Club Thursday to discuss current legislation with the public.

The Missouri General Assembly is currently considering legislation regarding school choice, including allowing children with special needs, foster kids and children of military members to receive scholarships.

These scholarships could be used for tuition, textbooks, online courses, tutoring, education aides and costs associated with home schooling.

Other legislation would allow communities to start charter schools in districts that have at least one underperforming building.

While the two bills are different from one another, Peter Franzen, associate executive director of the Children's Education Alliance of Missouri, said the important thing is giving all Missourians access to education options.

"We already have school choice here in Missouri. Some can move into the district of choice or send their kids to private school. The important thing is to make sure those that can't afford that have access to quality education as well," Franzen said.

Opponents of school choice argue school choice programs violate the separation of church and state by sending federal money to private religious schools.

Another argument is school choice harms an already hurting public education system by taking more money away from public schools.

Greg Rollins, President of the Cole County Republican Club, said his hope is for a system that allows the individual to choose the education that works best.

"We're more inclusive, allowing everyone who wants to make a decision to make that decision with all the information possible," Rollins said.

John Kerr, a Cole County resident who attended the forum, said the importance is opening up options for those who don't have access.

"Some are locked in with no other choice. I think the important thing is giving them that choice," Kerr said.

The Missouri House of Representatives will debate a bill creating education savings accounts this month. The bill would create a tax credit for Missourians who donate to be used for tuition.

No school choice legislation has made it to Governor Eric Greitens desk this session.