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How school choice has helped our families: A letter from two charter school parents

We each make thousands of decisions in our lives, from large (Should I get married, and to whom?) to small (Should I have that extra slice of pie?). But one of the most profound decisions any parent will make centers around how they will educate their children, because the quality of that education will affect their child’s entire life. This National School Choice Week, we can tell you firsthand that school choice has changed our child’s and our families lives by leaps and bounds — and it will for your children, or the children of your friends and relatives.

School choice operates on the premise that no two children are alike; each child has unique needs, talents, and interests. As a result, the people who know children best — their parents — should have the power to select the quality educational opportunity that matches their skill set.

National School Choice Week

Missouri State Capitol Rally, Wednesday, Jan. 22

Families will have opportunities to meet with legislators before and after the event. This event is planned to coincide with the history-making celebration of National School Choice Week 2020, which will feature more than 50,000 school choice events across all 50 states.

In Missouri, parents have several school choices they can select from as they determine where their child will learn and grow best. Families can use open enrollment, in which students attend public schools outside their assigned neighborhood, to choose from a broader swath of traditional public schools. Parents can choose selective magnet programs, which offer focused instruction in a specific area, like science or the arts. Parents can choose from online learning options, or homeschool their children.

In Missouri’s urban core (St. Louis and Kansas City), families can also choose to send their children to a Charter School. These schools receive taxpayer funding, but operate according to a charter that gives them more flexibility and freedom to innovate than traditional public schools. The charter also makes them more accountable for student outcomes — up to and including closure, if charter schools consistently fail to meet their targets.

“My children have adapted to the charter school model – with effective learning techniques and ways that have challenge them for the better. I appreciate the education my child is receiving and know they have been challenged through charter education with innovative techniques and practical models of learning,” said Kiva Dennis, whose children attend Brookside Elementary in Downtown Kansas City.

Action by the Legislature could expand the innovation that charter schools offer to more Missouri families. At present, only families in St. Louis and Kansas City have access to charters, and charters receive less funding than other schools. Expanding charter access and equalizing funding would give more children the opportunity to experience the positive influence that charter education can provide.


St. Louis parent Kate Makela described her family’s search for the best educational option for their child.

“We researched several schools but chose Gateway Science Academy (GSA) in St. Louis because the program is built around our daughters unique educational needs. Our daughter struggles in some academic areas and GSA has worked with our family to bring together teachers, counselors, and strategies that have allowed her to excel. I feel my child is where she is today because she is in a school that puts her needs first and works as a team to help her succeed. I truly believe that if I had not had the option of a charter school and their unique teaching styles, my child would not be the happy, thriving student she is today.”

This National School Choice Week, parents, teachers, friends and family will gather with their students at more than 50,000 events from January 26 through February 1. These events celebrate the way in which school choice has dramatically improved the lives of millions of children across the country.

Here in Missouri, we hope to use National School Choice Week as an opportunity to redouble our efforts to expand charter schools, and other forms of school choice, to all families. Not only can these school choices coexist and complement each other, but they can also help ensure that every parent can access a school where their child is learning and thriving.  All parents need more options, as our children are the future and need different opportunities in order to succeed.

– by Kiva Dennis, Kansas City Charter School parent; and Kate Makela, St. Louis Charter School parent