60 years ago, on May 17, the U.S. Supreme Court delivered their ruling in Brown v. Board of Education, a decision changing education in the United States forever and confirming what sits at the core of being an American: every child, regardless of their ethnicity or socioeconomic background has a right to a quality education and deserves a chance at success! Martin Luther King, Jr. was right when he said the Brown ruling was “a great beacon light of hope” and today there are more public school opportunities for all children.
At the Missouri Charter Public School Association we are proud of the role public charter schools in Missouri play and the work they are doing to help close the achievement gap and provide minority and low-income students with a path out of poverty. Public charter schools are independent, public, and tuition-free schools that are given the freedom to be more innovative while being held accountable for advancing student achievement.
There are 46 public charter schools in the State of Missouri providing an excellent education to over 20,000 students in Kansas City and St. Louis. These students come from all ‘walks of life’ bringing a diversity of strengths, abilities, and challenges. Charter public schools are employing multiple innovative instructional techniques, a diversity of educational programs, extended year opportunities, and finding ways to reach students never having experienced the feeling of success. Today many minority children finally have the opportunity to attend a public school that is on par with or better than public schools in non-minority neighborhoods.
However, as Nina Rees from the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools (NAPCS) points out, “there is much more work to be done to ensure all children have equal access to great schools”. There are more than one million student names on charter public schools waiting lists nationwide including the charter public schools in Missouri. And in some minority communities within our State chronically failing schools persist and there are no charter public schools options at all. We owe it to all students to make sure they can attend a school that challenges and prepares them for the future.
The NAPCS recently presented the following data points:
These nationwide findings reflect the success of individual charter schools across the country providing minority students with a top-level education. In Missouri:
We still need to do more! When it comes to the education of ALL of Missouri’s students we must think differently, act creatively and move expeditiously. The stakes are simply too high to do otherwise. The future of our State depends on educational innovation, a reasonable approach to assessing school performance, a comprehensive approach to ensuring school quality, and moving past the political traditional vs. charter arguments and working collaboratively to ensure that every family in the State of Missouri has excellent public school options to choose from. The growth and competitiveness of our entire region is dependent on a highly educated workforce, and Missouri must not be left behind.
Today we celebrate this “great beacon light of hope” with a commitment to ensure that the light continues to shine brighter until every child in the State of Missouri has only excellent, quality public school options to choose from.