This week is National School Choice Week! Here are five reasons to celebrate school choice this year.
- Parents know better than bureaucrats
Parents across America already know each child is different; each child has a unique set of strengths, weaknesses, challenges and triumphs which shape how he or she learns. Despite parents everywhere recognizing this obvious fact when it comes to their own children, the education system in the United States still, by and large, treats students as though they were all the same, with a one-size-fits-all policy that ignores students’ diversity. One reason this remains the case long after its initial introduction in the 19th century – based on a Progressive, central European model – is bureaucracies do not deal well with individualized circumstances (see: DMV clerk).
Contrastingly, school choice policies allow parents to choose and even shape the educational options available to their children, whether they choose traditional public school, charter school, private schools via vouchers or tax credit scholarships, homeschool, or a customized blend via education savings accounts. Parents and guardians are the only people able to provide that kind of personalized attention to a student’s needs, while bureaucracies can only attempt to craft a system that works for the “average” kid.
- Millions of parents already choose
Although school choice is innovative, it is not untested. About three million students already attend public charter schools in 42 states (and the District of Columbia) across the country. More than 377,000 students are currently enrolled in private school choice programs in over half the states, from tax credit scholarships in Florida to education savings accounts in Arizona. But millions more parents choose already – over five million students already attend private school, effectively meaning their parents pay double for tuition and public school taxes. School choice programs create options for parents who may not otherwise be able to afford access to the school choice more affluent families already exercise.
- Bipartisan support
School choice is one of the very few issues that garner not just bipartisan support, but support across the ideological spectrum. Last year, for instance, far-left Congresswoman Shelia Jackson Lee shared the School Choice Week kickoff stage with conservative Senator Ted Cruz. Any issue that can bring together, not just the two parties, but liberals and conservatives, is worth pursuing.
- More money hasn’t worked
The myth of education underfunding has been repeated so many times that it is taken as practically a given in many circles. But in reality, education in the United States is a $600 billion enterprise already, and all that money has not produced better results. Federal spending under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, has tripled in real dollars in the last 50 years, but NAEP scores have flatlined or even regressed, and some of the states that spend the most have the worst results. It’s time to try something new.
- The American Dream requires us to preserve opportunity for all
Currently, the neighborhood a student’s parents can afford to live in largely determines the quality of the educational opportunities he has access to. This severely hampers the ability of kids born without a lot of privileges or advantages to pursue their own American Dreams, using education as a springboard to their successes. Rather than try to mitigate the effects of this inequality after the fact, through affirmative action programs, welfare and “share the wealth” schemes, kids from all backgrounds ought to have the same access to quality educational options from Day 1. School choice for all will ensure that a student’s ZIP code does not determine his destiny.