The Shell Game of School Choice


Two important pieces of legislation have recently been filed in the Missouri Legislature; both related to school choice programs.  HB 634 would expand the implementation of charter schools throughout the State.  Currently, charter schools are restricted to the cities of St. Louis and Kansas City.  Proponents of school choice believe competition between charter, private and public schools will enhance educational opportunities for Missouri students.   However, school choice programs in Michigan and Indiana prove otherwise .  The Center for Tax and Budget Accountability (a nonpartisan research organization) studied Indiana’s school choice program.  Overall, the study found that school choice did little to benefit students and parents in Indiana.  The study concludes:

“All three core components of the Indiana Choice Legislation are designed to funnel taxpayer money to private schools, with little evidence that demonstrates improved academic achievement for students who are most at risk. Indiana should invest its scarce public education dollars in schools where taxpayers can expect to receive the best educational bang for their buck – that is schools that have been proven, when compared to other types of schools, to educate the most children to the highest levels. Those schools are, unequivocally, K-12 public schools.”

A New York Times article published earlier this year examined the proliferation of charter schools in Detroit, Michigan.  Detroit’s expansion of charter programs diluted public funding for all schools statewide, which hindered student achievement.  “By 2015, a federal review of a grant application for Michigan charter schools found an “unreasonably high” number of charters among the worst-performing 5 percent of public schools statewide” (Zernike, 2016).

Senate Bill 32 is a tax credit voucher program.  This would indirectly funnel public money (through the tax code) to private, parochial, public and virtual schools.  Essentially, this is a “shell game” as public money would be shuffled to institutions with minimal oversight.  While public schools are forced to comply with federal and state accountability standards, charter and private schools would receive public money with minimal accountability.  Currently, public schools are facing budget cuts in transportation and are being asked to do more with less money.  The voucher tax credit program would further dilute operating funds.  

SB 32 and HB 634 could have a substantial impact on educational services in the State of Missouri.  School choice programs have been ineffective, inefficient and expensive in other states.  Public schools ensure equitable educational opportunities for all students and are held to high accountability standards.  In my opinion, the proposed legislation would negatively impact Missouri students.  Please contact your local legislators if you agree.


Center for Tax and Budget Accountability.  (2015, April).  Analysis of Indiana School Choice Scholarship Program.  Retrieved from the Center for Tax and Budget AccountabilityWebsite:


Zernike, K. (2016, June 28).  A sea of charter schools in Detroit leaves student adrift.  The New York Times.  Retrieved from

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s