Opinion

School Choice Can Save Our Children and Our Cities

The hopes and needs of children are clearly evident when charter or pilot schools become available in school districts.

Lines, sometimes blocks long, of applicants eager to give their children a better shot at an education can be seen. Unfortunately, there are a limited amount of openings compared to the overwhelming demand by parents desperate to get their children a better education. These scenes, repeated around the country, are heartbreaking, but at the same time gives a sense of hope, that something is being attempted to shake up the government education system.

This week is National School Choice Week. It is being celebrated throughout our country with over 3,500 events honoring the change that can transform our education system into one of the finest in the world… but it will take courage to change the status quo.

In honor of School Choice Week, I talked to Jeff Reed, communications director for the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice. The Friedman Foundation has been spearheading school choice efforts throughout the country, working with new thinking Governors such as Louisiana’s Bobby Jindal and Wisconsin’s Scott Walker, in turning around a failing government education system. Jeff shared many positive developments with me, as school choice starts to take hold around the country.

Parents love the freedom, when offered, to take a voucher to a private, or alternative school for the chance of a better education for their children.

Many Governors and Mayors love the idea of vouchers not only for the freedom of choice they offer, they love it because it can save them huge amounts of money. Sometimes the cost of a voucher for a student to enroll in a private school is ½ the cost of the public school. That can add up to substantial cost savings to states and cities struggling to keep their heads above water.

Additionally, when school choice is introduced into a state or district, through vouchers, tax credits, savings accounts, etc…it brings competition, which is lacking in the public school system.

But John Norquist, Democratic mayor of Milwaukee from 1988 to 2004, had a unique perspective on school choice and how it can restore our cities.

Norquist wrote: “If a young couple moves to, say, St. Louis and chooses a home in one of the city’s revitalizing neighborhoods, everything goes well until their first child approaches school age. They might decide to pay for private education at one of the few such schools in the city. Or they might take a chance on getting into one of the city’s elite magnet schools. But what looks like the surest way to enroll their child in a good school is to move to a suburb.”

He goes on with: “Although the couple enjoys urban life in St. Louis, they leave for better school opportunities. This process occurs all across the country; many parents with resources move away from cities and suburbs where poor people live.”

The lack of quality education choice leads to the further decay of our big cities and urban areas. Mr. Norquist believes “many more, including middle-class parents, would live in economically and racially diverse cities once school choice was universally available.”

When you hear a leader of the top public education union and fiercest foe of education choice say: “Union dues, not education, are our top priority,”…..it is plain to see we have lost our way as a country and have failed our children.

Let’s give all of our parents and children a choice when it comes to education

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PAKID
8 years ago

The writer makes no reference to the fine systems of parochial education operated by many church groups in the US. Roman Catholic, Lutheran Church Missouri Synod, and many baptist type churches offer high quality education at a reasonable cost to families. Most of them have a scholarship/tuition assistance program that can help defray some of the tuition costs. Yes, there is contact with the particular religious theology, but it’s possible to deal with that. (The best example I know about is a Jewish friend educated in Catholic schools in New York state 40 years ago. Dad took it seriously enough to talk to his children every night about what they “taught them about Jesus today”, and countered it with solid Jewish teachings that my friend still retains today.)

PaulE
8 years ago

The problem with public education isn’t that the original concept was to provide access to education for all, but rather that the system has been corrupted over time to become a vehicle for systemic indoctrination by the left and a guaranteed union job with little to no real accountability to the taxpayers that foot the bill.

Creating a second path, via school choice, would provide an alternative to the broken system, but does nothing to reform a system that will continue to turn out millions of under-educated, brainwashed youth who willingly embrace the failed ideologies that left puts forth. In addition to school choice, we also have to clean up and take back the existing public eduction system from those that have so effectively used it to create a generation of people unable and unwilling to recognize where the left’s siren songs will take this country.

MaryAnn
8 years ago

I’m a retired teacher, now substituting in a lot of environments. I know less about teaching than I did when I started out 46 years ago. But one thing I do know is that “school choice” is a real bad, expensive idea. Why? HOLD THE NEIGHBORHOODS ACCOUNTABLE FOR LEARNING TO OCCUR. What is it saying to the less fortunate members of society when the potential leaders and those who have the time and abilities to contribute to their communities leave them for other places. Tell those parents that their children can and will learn if it’s assume they will do so.

In many cases, neighborhood schools are being closed for “failing” and everyone gets bussed somewhere else. OF COURSE they fail if the best and the brightest go somewhere else, and the parents who would provide the most effective and positive input bring their children elsewhere. When you close those schools, that shuts down the neighborhood…the playground, the auditorium, the contact and bonding with neighbors. It’s spending money on transportation that could be better spent on education. It’s culling off the pre-determined successes and leaving everyone else behind.

I’m seriously disappointed that AMAC is spouting this socal engineering. Don’t you see that “school choice” is just a way to create an underclass of low achieving, minimum wage, no threat to the status guo majority?

PaulE
8 years ago
Reply to  MaryAnn

MaryAnn,

I think you unintentionally outlined why school choice has become necessary, although you probably didn’t intend to do so. First you fall back on the old “less fortunate members of society” line, that has been used for decades to justify funneling ever larger amounts of taxpayer dollars into under-performing schools. If money were the magic cure or great equalizer to educational achievement so many on the left claim it is, then both test scores and graduation rates from those schools would have dramatically increased over the last 40 years instead of remaining essentially flat. Children learn when they are motivated and that motivation, to a very great extent, is the responsibility of the parents to instill in their children. No amount of money being thrown at the problem changes that equation.

Second, you seem to think that the parents who in looking out for the best educational opportunities for their children elect, where possible, by either transferring their children or moving to a better school environment are somehow doing something wrong. These parents, the ones that are actively engaged in their children’s education, are being responsible and doing everything they can to ensure their children obtain the best education possible within their economic means. In short, they are good parents.

The parents you should be upset with are the ones that send their children in and expect the school system to function as a combination school, day care center and pseudo parent. The ones that feel “it’s the school’s responsibility” to raise their children. This of course goes back to the first point. When enough of these type parents, who have abdicated their parental responsibility, make up a neighborhood, you do indeed end up a failing school.

What would you advocate the good parents of such a neighborhood to do? Should they intentionally under-cut their children’s chance for future achievement in life, by keeping them in an sub-optimal educational environment designed to cater to those students who are unmotivated to succeed, or should they use every means possible to try and provide the best educational environment they can?

Finally, your use of the phrase “culling the pre-determined successes and leaving everyone else behind” strikes me that you think that in order to be “fair”, another wonderful social engineering term of the left, that responsible parents should be willing to sacrifice their children’s future for the sake of perpetuating the current failed system. Good luck selling that approach to anyone who cares about their child’s future.

Marcus
8 years ago
Reply to  MaryAnn

Ay, there/s the rub. I teach in a small rural school where the graduating classes are in the 40 – 50 student range, which is quite small by most standards. I can tell you the quality of learning depends greatly on the kids who go through each year. Some years I will get juniors and seniors who want to set the world on fire. They study, work hard, and in general make good students at the 2 and 4 year schools they will attend. On the other hand, I also get groups of kids who have no ambition or desire to do anything more than sponge off mom and dad. Since the state keeps track of achievement scores our school can look like heroes one year and goats the next.

Tony B.
8 years ago

The way I see it, this thing about public education started with the intent to take our children and indoctrinate them. There was nothing wrong with our system and everyone that wanted an education was able to get it.
This thing that everyone is entitled to an education is a athma in the face of reality. No one is entitled to anything. If you want something you work and get it yourself.
God has given us children and the responsibility to educate them and to bring them up according to His statues not the government and not anyone else.
The last century showed us the devastation that occurs when big brother takes over. They make laws that depress freedom and that oppress people and learning. The field of understanding is restricted and only the political correct and liberal views are accepted or brought into discussion.
This is called :brainwashing ” and it is done to dumb down our citizenry.
Public schools violate the very essence of a constitutional for of government and create a class of slaves.
Tony B.

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