An Interview with Coi Morefield
Governor Bill Lee gave his sixth State of the State on February 5th, laying out his plan for the year and the policies he hopes the General Assembly passes. The biggest announcement was arguably his proposal to offer educational options to every student in Tennessee. Educational options have historically been a zoned public school or an established private school, if a family could afford it. Yet innovative education models, such as microschools, have begun to grow and become a viable option for families, especially in rural or underserved communities where a large private school may not be possible. Any educational choice program should be welcoming of these small schools that provide a great education to children and are responsive to the families they serve.
One microschool founder, Coi Morefield of the Lab School of Memphis, has immense knowledge of innovative education models and meeting the needs of students and families. Morefield was not an “evangelical hedge fund” creating a school, like one state lawmaker usually claims will pop up from giving students educational choice, but she was an individual who saw a need in her community and desired to offer another option to students who have struggled in traditional public schools.
In speaking with Morefield, she offered her view of educational choice and innovative education models. Her story and the Lab School take the wind out of the sails of those who fight against school choice and instead rally to keep students in public schools that may not be meeting their needs.
School choice detractors have said private schools can fail to meet the needs of students, but that isn’t the case at the Lab School. Morefield explained how the school meets the students where they are, both academically and emotionally. Some students bring psychological scars from their time in their zoned public school, and the Lab School works hand-in-hand with families to get students to see school is not a place where trauma occurs, but instead a place where growth and learning is the goal. Education at the Lab School isn’t just about the classroom either, with students being able to take advantage of internships and apprenticeships, online and project based learning, and even outdoor programs that give students academic and practical learning experiences.
Students attending the Lab School are also not from the most wealthy of families, as educational choice detractors like to claim. Morefield has seen families that did not have the current financial means to send their children to the school take second jobs to pay for tuition. That means two parent households working three or four jobs just to be able to send their child to a school that would meet their needs. On the topic of educational choice programs, Morefield cautioned against arbitrary income limits for eligibility, as parents are then stuck with improving their financial status or being able to keep their eligibility for the educational choice program. She stated “parents who have worked very hard for raises and advanced education to improve their lives and increase financial security are being punished for doing so as the goalpost for accessible options is moved further out of reach.”
In closing, Morefield said education “is meant for service. It’s not a political thing. We are here to serve the children.” That may be something the traditional public school system has unfortunately forgotten about or are unable to do because of bureaucratic rules and regulations. Thankfully, parents like Coi are taking education into their own hands and offering a catered experience to students in their community. With a statewide educational choice program, more Tennessee students will have the opportunity to attend schools like the Lab School and live up to their full potential.
For more information on Coi Morefield and the Lab School of Memphis, visit https://thelabschoolofmemphis.com/