Cindy O'Laughlin -Education is the Foundation for a Person’s Success

October 18, 2023

Education is the Foundation for a Person’s Success

Education is the foundation for a person’s success; if you can’t read or do math your odds of being successful are pretty slim. I have always been an advocate of education reform and in fact that was the main premise of my initial campaign for the senate. Advocating for reform and promoting good public schools is good for everyone. Education has become a political football tossed back and forth between many competing parties. Why? Because education represents huge sums of money and where this much money is involved there’s going to be power struggles. I believe the following steps need taken.

1. Put teachers first by giving them control of their classrooms. Stop the endless testing, ever multiplying learning standards and get back to the basics of reading, science and math. Our focus must be on early literacy to ensure kids can read by the 3rd Grade so that our students have the tools to learn and succeed.

2. Increase teacher pay and benefits by decreasing funding for administrative positions and such things as glorified tracks, swimming pools and other extracurricular facilities that may be nice but should be funded AFTER teachers and classrooms have the resources they need.

3. Get rid of tenure and institute merit pay. Reward good teachers and compensate them well for the hard work they do and reduce the number of bad teachers. There’s no incentive for excellence if everyone is rewarded equally regardless of output and outcomes.

4. Allow for outside accreditation coupled with increased accountability for educational outcomes and downsize the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education which has become a huge department presiding over declining results and giving little support or leadership to assist struggling schools.

5. Stop the political activism which is prevalent in the universities and produces teachers who are activists rather than teachers focused on the basics. We need to stop paying for this with your taxpayer dollars.

6. Expand ESAs statewide. Let parents take their tax dollars and send their children to the schools they deem best. In most instances, this will have little impact. Schools that are responding to the needs of their students and their parents will continue to flourish. However, for our most needy families and for our kids with special needs whose educational needs aren’t being met there must be a path forward. Too many kids are trapped in hopeless positions and Missouri cannot allow for more of the same for another generation.

Missouri recently released data on reading and math scores which were low. Schools were historically rated by many factors (called an APR score) that encompassed several items. While student achievement is listed there were obvious flaws as schools could have low outcomes in educational achievement and still get an APR score in the 90’s. (100 would be a perfect score.) For instance a school could have an average of 40% of students achieving below proficient in reading or math and still get a high APR. This has been revised to more accurately reflect where students stand and parents are surprised to see some very low scores. We must work to raise achievement and I believe the above list would help to do just that. The issues in schools are not entirely created by school shortcomings, they are also created by lack of parental involvement and student discipline/expectations. Let’s get to work and raise the student outcomes.