Missouri Rep. Chris Lonsdale, R-Liberty, is taking heat for voting against an open enrollment bill last week after promising during his election campaign to support it and other school choice measures.
The conflict was apparent on Twitter Wednesday, where screenshots of Lonsdale’s pledge to support specific school choice measures, including open enrollment, were shared.
.@ChrisLonsdaleKC’s 2002 completed @SchoolChoiceNow questionnaire when he was seeking that org’s support. He voted against open enrollment as a #moleg member 6 months later.#mogov #edreform #schoolchoice pic.twitter.com/ALEqe1HTgZ
— Gregg Keller (@RGreggKeller) March 15, 2023
The pledge was part of a survey produced by the American Federation for Children (AFC), sent out to political candidates in order to learn more about their stances on important education issues.
“We send a survey out to everyone who files for office,” Jean Evans, Missouri state lead for AFC, told The Lion. “From that survey we make decisions about who we might want to support.” She also emphasized that AFC does not talk to candidates about their political campaigns.
Evans says Lonsdale was one of three lawmakers who pledged support for school choice but then voted against HB 253, the open enrollment bill that passed the House last week. The others are Sherri Gallick, R-Belton, and Donny Brown, R-New Madrid, according to Evans.
Political strategist Gregg Keller, who tweeted the screenshots of Lonsdale’s survey, spoke to The Lion about the lawmaker’s recent actions.
“Lonsdale told voters he supported open enrollment: it’s literally there in black-and-white in his own hand,” Keller said. “Then he flip-flopped and voted against it. Next he started attacking people personally who until recently had been his allies. When I say attacking people, he immediately sent a tweet at me yesterday, going on the attack, calling me a grifter.”
Keller says he understands that people take different positions on school choice, but it’s not okay to be dishonest about it.
“It’s okay to have honest disagreements. It’s okay to be on opposite sides of an issue: Republican, Democrat, whatever,” he said. “But what’s not okay is lying to people who had been your supporters and then attacking them publicly with ad hominem lies. That’s what Lonsdale did and that’s why his professional reputation is what it now is.”
A message left for Lonsdale went unanswered on Wednesday.
The representative’s campaign page on Facebook contains a post from last May that appears to strongly support school choice. It includes a picture with the slogan, “Fund Students. Not Systems.”
Prominent school choice advocate Corey DeAngelis, who has made the slogan popular, told The Lion that it’s parents who Lonsdale let down.
“Rep. Lonsdale flip-flopped on education freedom amid the great parent awakening,” said DeAngelis, who is also a senior fellow at AFC. “He told parents he supported education freedom just six months ago and then turned his back on them last week.
“Parents are the last special interest group a politician should deceive, especially after the past few years. These parents won’t forget.”
Missouri state director at Americans for Prosperity, Jeremy Cady, also expressed disappointment, having spoken to Lonsdale before his election, when he says Lonsdale supported educational opportunities such as open enrollment.
“Open enrollment is a priority for many of his legislative colleagues and our advocates,” Cady told The Lion. “It often falls on us to keep legislators accountable for their votes, and this will be top-of-mind as we consider the best steps moving forward in our effort to expand educational options for children across Missouri.”
According to Evans, the voters deserve an explanation from the lawmakers who reversed their positions:
“Nobody owes me or AFC an explanation. They owe an explanation to the voters.”