School Choice is on the Move Thanks to Iowa
Iowa is the first state to implement a statewide school choice program. About time.
One of the best educational reforms is school choice. It has innumerable upsides for the education of our children and no downsides – unless you are among those who depend on the failing public school systems for profit, power, and prestige.
Some folks push back at my contention that the public school systems are failing. They tend to ignore the horrific failure of the systems serving mostly minority students in segregated urban ghettoes. But even the so-called “better schools” are failing to meet the needs of the students in terms of basic education – and cultural values.
Students are not taught America’s unique civic history – and the concepts of governance as laid down by the Founders. Instead, kids are being indoctrinated with anti-American values contrary to the wishes of their parents. We are not passing on the positive values of American culture to the next generation.
The public school system is also failing to meet the challenges of the modern day in terms of basic disciplines. American students are falling behind their counterparts in other nations – including such critical global adversaries as China.
The school choice concept has been around for more than 30 years. It has had partial victories in terms of the creation of charter schools. They are essentially public schools that are allowed to operate largely independently from the basic public school systems.
Recognizing the need to address the seriously failing urban public schools, some of the major school boards have created “magnet schools” with higher standards – and better educational output. But these have tended to be elitist schools – leaving the public schools without better students as role models. In Chicago, the magnet school has become the haven for many white students from elitist families who would otherwise have to attend an inferior neighborhood public school or exclusive private schools.
We have seen the rise of parent anger over the curriculum and operation of their local schools throughout the nation. There is concern that the “state” – through the public schools – is taking more control over the education and development of the children than the parents. There is a legitimate concern that the education monopoly is teaching values contrary to those of the family at home – undermining parental preferences and authority.
All this can be resolved through real school choice – in which the money dedicated to education is funneled through the parents and students. They can then select the educational institutions that meet their needs and desires.
It is appropriate that we financially support the education of our children. It is not mandatory that it must be done by giving buildings and union demands a higher priority than parental desires and education, itself. It is not productive to place a political agenda – whether it be left-wing woke principles or maintenance of an embedded political structure – ahead of the fundamental needs of the students. And that is what is happening in too many of the public school systems. Issues like abortion and gender-altering procedures are being provided to underage students without parental knowledge.
Under the current system, only parents of means can afford to send their children to non-public schools. Low-income groups are financially trapped in failing and often dangerous schools, with high dropout rates. They are literally the means of transferring taxpayer money to union pension funds and political war chests.
There is a reason that the education lobby is among the largest in America – and among the greatest contributors to political parties – at least one party – and candidates.
Currently, the educational industry is in charge of education – not parents. School choice reverses that reality. Rather than run taxpayer money through the political system, the per-pupil subsidy is transferred to the parent to direct to the school of their choice – public, private, or parochial.
Rather than maintain a monopoly of education for the less advantaged, the public schools would be required to compete in the market of parents. Parents would not have to fight their local school boards, but simply send their kids to more acceptable schools. In order to survive, public schools would have to compete for students and respond to the desires of parents.
Universal school choice would mean that students would be able to secure the best educational opportunities. Parents – through the power of selection – would be able to secure the educational institutions that best represent their interests and values.
Opponents of school choice argue that such a program could violate the separation of Church and state with regard to parochial school. Of course, that is nonsense. The highly praised Pell Grants are nothing less than a school choice program at the College level. Pell grant recipients can apply the money for tuition to such parochial schools as Notre Dame, Loyola, or DePaul universities.
The only losers under school choice systems are the teachers’ unions and the political establishments they generously support with taxpayer money laundered through the dues and Political Action Committees (PACs). Each student sitting in a public school is the source of the money from the state.
The politician/union self-serving combine would collapse if the kids were not forced to remain in even the worst public schools without consideration of the quality of their education.
I have often stated my belief that the cynical maintenance of failing school systems for millions of mostly minority students is among the most immoral political acts of our times. We have literally destroyed the potential of millions of children – condemning them to generational impoverishment and limited career advancement.
We have left them in hopeless environments in which crime and drugs become the alternative career paths – blocking their access to America’s opportunity society.
Our duty as parents and a nation is to provide the best educational opportunities for our future generations regardless of race, gender, religion, or economic status. School choice puts children first – ahead of teachers, administrators, unions, buildings, and especially politicians.
It is likely that other states will follow Iowa’s example and craft their own school choice legislation. And that will be a good thing for students, parents, and America.
So, there ‘tis.