Op-Ed: ‘Missouri public education requires a reset and return to basics’

With Commissioner Margie Vandeven’s resignation announcement Tuesday, we believe it is necessary to call attention to pressing K-12 public education issues.

As the co-chairs of the Joint Committee on Education, we know that Missouri’s public schools are struggling to achieve acceptable student academic outcomes, are struggling to regain parental trust and confidence, and are struggling with an ever-expanding list of responsibilities beyond classroom instruction.

Academic outcomes are embarrassing. Parents are increasingly frustrated. Public education is no longer solely focused upon education.

All of this is occurring while the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) suffers significant bloat and mission creep. Missouri public education requires a reset and return to basics. 

Academic achievement has been in steady decline for over a decade on statewide and national assessments. Parents are increasingly frustrated that the purpose of public schools has shifted to social reconstruction and social programing, under the guise of educational equity, rather than pressing for academic excellence.

Evidence continues to demonstrate that public education is reducing academic expectations, is reducing attention on core disciplines, and is subverting parental authority. 

The State Board of Education’s selection of the next Commissioner of Education is critical.

We call upon the BOE to ensure that the next commissioner will prioritize the values and goals of Missouri parents over those of nongovernmental organizations, will promote local control at the parental level, will work to regain a singular focus upon classroom instruction, will discontinue the current move toward making Social Emotional Learning, or anything akin to it, equivalent to academic learning as an objective of K-12 education, and will eliminate DESE’s bloat and mission creep.

The one formal task that DESE is charged with is ensuring that public K-12 schools are providing quality education to Missouri children. This is not happening.

We look forward to engaging with board members to discuss the qualities of leadership needed to accomplish our mutual goal of quality education for all of Missouri’s K-12 students. 

This article is taken from a letter to President Charlie Shields and other members of the Missouri State Board of Education.








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