School Choice Can Remove Politics From Education

AP Photo/Marta Lavandier, File

As the Education Wars™ drag on, parents concerned about what their children are being taught in public schools are looking for ways to shield their children’s minds from the progressive ideology being infused in K-12 classrooms. Among the issues being discussed is school choice, which many have suggested as a solution to the problem. I came across an op-ed that makes this case. But, there is something about this situation that we must understand if we are going to make this plan work.

Colleen Hroncich, a policy analyst at the Cato Institute, wrote a piece in which she highlighted the heated political battles centering on education. “From teaching sex education in young grades to lessons about racial issues to COVID-19 policies, education is a hot topic,” she writes. “Since opinions about these issues often fall along party lines, the general election is likely to be even more contentious.”

The author then asks whether America could remove politics from education–and answers her own question:

We can. The current winner‐​takes‐​all system forces parents to engage in political battles to get their children the education they think is best. But when one group of parents “wins,” that means another group loses.

School choice—letting education dollars follow children to the option that works best for them—is the answer. When parents can choose where and how their children will be educated, they’re no longer at the mercy of politicians and bureaucrats. That means they don’t have to rely on political battles when it comes to education.

Hroncich also points out that school choice is “very popular” with parents and voters, and touts the benefits of education savings accounts (ESAs). “Parental support for ESAs has been 84 to 86 percent in the last few years,” she explains.

She also points out that “nearly 170 empirical studies on the impacts of school choice” show that these policies have “very strong positive impacts,” when it comes to “test scores, educational attainment, parental satisfaction, civic practices, and fiscal effects.”

The author then explains why more states have not enacted school choice legislation despite its jump in popularity. She rightly points the finger at teachers unions, which are vehemently opposed to the idea that parents should decide how and where their children are educated. “Teachers unions are the biggest roadblock to widespread school choice. In addition to backing candidates who oppose school choice, they actively campaign to stop school choice legislation in states,” she writes.

Hroncich also points out that most grew up in an environment in which attending their assigned district school was commonplace. People simply assumed that was the way it had to work. Indeed, many of us have been conditioned to think that public schools should be the primary way America’s children are educated. But, as the author points out, the reason people were limited to certain schools is that the system was created in the 1800s when people didn’t have cars to transport them to class.

Of course, we are no longer living in the 1800s unless, perhaps, you ask a proponent of Critical Race Theory (CRT), who might still believe black people are enslaved and prohibited from voting. Now, parents are seeking alternatives to public schooling, which is why attendance at these schools has dropped precipitously. Indeed, the rates of parents homeschooling or sending their kids to charter and private schools have increased. Hroncich writes:

We haven’t faced those limitations for a long time. And after schools were closed in response to COVID-19, parents are seeing how many options there really are when it comes to education. Pandemic pods, microschools, hybrid schools, and other private schools—parents who never looked beyond their local district school are suddenly seeing education in a new light. And many want to stick with these new options.

I don’t disagree with a single word Hroncich wrote. But I do believe there is more to it.

Yes, teachers unions are among the most ardent opponents of school choice because it affects their bottom line. When parents choose where their kids go to school, it takes money away from the unions and public schools.

However, we must not neglect the fact that progressives, in general, also detest school choice. However, their motivation is less about money and more about ideology.

Hroncich’s assertion that school choice would address the politics of the matter is spot on. If a parent wants their child to learn about ideas related to Critical Race Theory and is okay with them learning so-called progressive ideas about gender identity and sexuality, that would be their choice. However, if other parents would rather their children not be exposed to such material, they would be able to put their children in an institution that does not offer those teachings. It would likely make for a more peaceful situation, in which people exercise their freedom to choose.

But this is not how progressives think. It is not how they approach matters such as these. To them, it is not enough to present their ideology to the kids of parents who want them to learn it; they want all children to be influenced by these principles–regardless of what their parents think. It is for this reason that so many progressive-led school districts have imposed policies requiring teachers to teach this material – and even affirm a student’s decision to transition to other genders – without telling their parents. I have pointed out on more than one occasion that these people believe your children belong to the state, not you.

So, a school choice scenario would not be acceptable to progressives because they don’t think in terms of people being free to make their own choices. Instead, they want everyone to adopt their ideology, and there is little they are unwilling to do to make that happen. This is what we must keep in mind, when we are promoting school choice. Our opposition isn’t motivated just by money. They literally wish to indoctrinate your children and grandchildren into their way of thinking. This is the opponent we are facing. Once we realize this, we will understand we have to be just as aggressive and ruthless in pushing school choice as they are in advancing their agenda.


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