Many of you know I have been on a mission to see quality education return to Missouri. As a homeschool mom, I want to be clear that I am also a public school ally. I believe that most citizens will be educated through our government schools, but we, if given the option of choice, we can provide parents with quality choices that fit or precious unique children. Public schools have lost their way and seem to be hanging on to the threads of control that may prove detrimental to Missouri’s schools.
I promised to post my recent testimony regarding school choice and Charter School expansion, and the blog is the best way to provide this.
HB 581 Testimony:
My name is Cathy Jo Loy, I live in Joplin and I am the mother of 5. I have a plethora of stories about schools and choice and why we made educational decisions over the past 32 years, but today I want to share my 17-year-old son, Max’s story.
We became Max’s foster parents when he was 3 months old. His parents were considered mentally delayed and he was a 3rd generation foster child. Although Max displayed some delays he was verbally advanced and a clever problem solver. Max had an August birthday, so to give him an advantage, we chose to wait and enroll him in kindergarten until he was 6. For 1st grade we chose to enroll Max in a private school, but a few months into the year, his principal and teachers called us into the school and explained Max was just not ready for the fast-paced rigor their curriculum required and advised we put him in our local public school. Our local school,known as the Fairview ZOO, had been on academic probation for over 6 years, and so against their advice, but as his parents who knew him best, we chose to have Max repeat kindergarten there. We then began laborious & costly testing to determine the source his delays. One of the public school principal explained Max’s biggest hurdle: he was a delight to have in class and because he wasn’t “behavioral” and tested so high verbally he didn’t have the “differential” needed to qualify for any extra services.
After the 2011 tornado we moved to Joplin and chose an elementary school that we were directly involved serving through Bright Futures. This school, considered the poorest in our city, opened my eyes to the vast needs of students, parents and the disparaging opportunities in Joplin. Max began to hate school. One night he came home with 800 multiplication problems. Rocket Math, 100 timed problems and those you missed or didn’t finish must be written 10x each for homework. Max took longer to process but knew his multiplication tables through 12’s; Max failed at rocket math and as his teacher explained, “Well, I’m sorry, but this is the way we are required to do it here.”
When I noticed the class working in pairs on fun science experiments. I asked Max and his buddy Charles why they weren’t working on theirs and they both replied that they didn’t get to do the science because they went to Mrs. Dee’s reading class.
As Max’s parents, we knew he needed something different than this current schools could give him, but there was nothing available in our local public school. Max needed more auditory learning and more hands on, tactile curriculum. Looking at schools that fit these needs, a common theme kept coming up; Public Charter Schools. Missouri’s laws prohibited a Charter in Joplin and were forced to begin homeschooling. We chose a curriculum that worked beautifully for my curious, verbal child. Even diagraming sentence & Latin thrilled my non-reader because he saw them as puzzles. Max built an engine; designed a forge, debated in logic, and took first place at the Science Fair.
Because my husband is a physician we were privileged with “School Choice” when we didn’t even know that was what we were doing. We could hire tutors, buy the right educational toys, I had the freedom to stay home, and a car to drive across town so that Max could succeed educationally.
But what about Charles parents? Charles lived in a one-room hotel and his parents didn’t speak English. What choice did his parents have? What about Sarah’s dad and mom who were working through Children’s Haven to retain custody of there 6 children, with no car, if they couldn’t walk, it wasn’t an option. How were the single parents, whose very best is just to get their child to school each morning, able to choose?
Because of my economic and social standing, I am not naive to the fact, that although limited, I had school choice options for my children. But I love my community also have a deep desire to “seek the welfare of the city I have been planted”. For a town above the national poverty rate, I believe educated citizens are the key economic freedom and tomorrow’s workforce. I am here to advocate on behalf of the children and parents that do not have the choices outside of their district public school. We must give children in public school the best quality education that fits their unique needs. Public Charter Schools have proven successful options throughout the US for over 30 years. We have some amazing Charter School success stories right here in Missouri, but only in 2 large cities.
In spite of the public schools failing Max, quality education has allowed Max to be on track to graduate with his high school diploma & associates degree concurrently.
George Washington said
“The best means of forming virtuous and happy people will be found in the right education of youth”.
PUBLIC Charter School expansion is one of the “right” options and must become available to all the Max’s of my community and across Missouri.