JEFFERSON CITY, Mo – Education reform advocates took to the Missouri Capitol on Tuesday to express support for legislation enabling School Choice and to push for the reopening of Missouri schools.
Clay County Republican Central Committee member Mary Hill and a group named Open Missouri Schools organized the event through a Facebook group titled “Education Reform at the Missouri Capitol.”
Organizers said the event was planned in response to the continued closure of schools across the state.
Hill’s inspiration for the event was based on her concerns about the makeshift efforts schools were forced to explore after the shutdown of in-person learning.
“My grandkids are only going to school two days a week,” Hill said. “They’re barely being educated and they’re having to educate themselves. What is happening to kids in Missouri is an absolute travesty.”
According to the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education’s website, there are over 325,000 students across the state participating in “blended” classes, a mix of at-home and onsite learning, while over 64,000 students are still completely online.
Education reform historically has struggled in the Missouri legislature. Recently, the House passed HB 349, which would allow students to draw scholarship funds in order to attend the school of their choice. This measure is now being heard in the Missouri Senate for consideration.
Experts say this recent shift in momentum could be due to parents sharing the same concerns that kids are unable to attend public schools while private schools have been operating as normal.
When asked what she would say to legislators who are still against fully reopening Missouri schools, Hill had a simple answer.
“I would show them numbers of the amount of kids being adversely affected, and as a legislator, how can you ignore that?” Hill asked. “How dare you ignore that?”
On Feb. 12, 2021 the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released guidelines for schools to reopen in-person learning fully and safely. However, there are many schools in Missouri that are still participating in blended or wholly online schooling.
“Have we decided that education is optional now?” Hill said about schools refusing to fully reopen. “It’s time the kids and their education are put first, and right now it’s not happening. The only way that we can right this ship, is to have some education reform.”