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