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By Mike Scott
NEMOnews Media Group
Several proposals to allow open enrollment in Missouri schools are being considered by the Missouri Legislature this session.
Two weeks ago, the House Committee on Elementary and Secondary Education held a hearing on Sedalia Republican Brad Pollit’s bill. The bill passed in the house last year, but didn’t get a vote in the Senate. At least eight other bills are under consideration.
On Thursday, January 25, State Senator Cindy O’Laughlin, (R-Shelbina) who represents a large portion of northeast Missouri, spoke to editors and reporters visiting the Capitol for the Missouri Press Association’s annual Day At The Capitol.
Asked about school choice, O’Laughlin responded, “Way back in the day, I was on the school board, and they were doing that I thought ‘this will not be good for the kids’.
According to O’Laughlin, phonics was eliminated in favor of sight reading.
“How are you supposed to read the word if you’ve never seen the word?” she asked.
“Then it was math. They still use that weird math where you do 400 steps, and if you don’t get the right answer, you still get the credit,” she continued. “And now we have people who can’t do math.”
O’Laughlin recalled meeting with school superintendents following her first election.
She told them, “You know, and I know, there are things happening that are not working. All I’m asking is that you work with me. They all said they would. I’ve not gotten one suggestion, and I’ve been here six years.”
“The thing about school choice is, schools do not have to address the problems they have until you can walk away,” she continued.
“Choice gives schools the push they need so these people could walk away. Even in the rural areas, you’ve got another school within 20 miles in a lot of places. I’m absolutely for school choice.”
“All I’m asking is that we focus on results. We have spent more money every year and the outcome has gotten worse every year” she added. “Teachers are frustrated.”
O’Laughlin reflected on her time as a South Shelby school board member.
“We had an excellent principal, and I said we’d better pay him more or somebody is going to take him. Oh, My goodness, you would have thought I’d suggested bombing the school, and they said ‘we can’t do that. That will make the other people jealous.’”
“We have a system that wants to treat everyone the same, almost socialist type, and we’re supposed to be training people to excel in a capitalist system? How does that work?” she asked
“Saying that teachers are not teaching for the money is absurd. Everyone goes to work to get paid. Let’s reward excellence instead of rewarding everything average or below,” she concluded.
O’Laughlin praised the incoming Commissioner of Elementary and Secondary Education, Karla Eslinger.
“She’s a state senator now. She was a superintendent. She worked for the federal Department of Education, which, by the way, I don’t think we need at all. Education is supposed to be a local thing. But I am fully supportive of her.”