Next week, January 23-29, is School Choice Week. What is school choice? School choice isn’t about raising one educational model above all others. It’s not about doing away with public schools. It’s about making them better, and giving families the freedom to choose the school -- public, private, charter, religious, secular -- that will help their children learn and grow. Above all, it’s about reforming the system so that every parent has the freedom to choose the education that’s best for their individual child.
It’s about putting parents in control of their children’s education and their future. When did we decide that families should be limited to the specific school their neighborhood was zoned for?
Our public education system is a mess, and the U.S. is falling further behind other developed countries. Something is obviously broken, and we have a responsibility as parents to figure out what it is and how to fix it.
Is money the problem? Is a lack of funds preventing schools from academically challenging our kids? If this were the case, public schools in the DC district would be churning out little Einsteins and Curies, as they spend nearly $25,000 per student. Funding doesn’t seem to be the issue.
What about regulation? Surely No Child Left Behind, which set federal standards for academic achievement and improvement with the lure of federal dollars, has raised the bar for schools everywhere? Not so much. As Linda Darling-Hammond of The Nation points out, “At base, the law has misdefined the problem. It assumes that what schools need is more carrots and sticks rather than fundamental changes.”
Detroit is considering closing half of its schools to fund the teachers union. Teachers in Milwaukee want Viagra covered in their state-funded health insurance packages. The president of United Teachers Los Angeles doesn’t think public school teachers should be accountable to the public. Schools are wasting time and resources banning candy canes rather than actually educating our kids.
Nope, I don’t think lack of funding or regulation is what’s plaguing the education system.
The only thing that’s going to save education is a total restructuring of the system. Students do best when parents and schools work together. Let parents make that first crucial step for their children’s education: Let them choose the school that will best meet the needs of the child they have nurtured and raised, and know better than anyone. Whether it’s a public school of their choice, charter school, private school, or home school, our kids will be winners when they’re at the school that’s right for them, not randomly placed in one according to their address.
Visit School Choice Week to find out more and learn how you can participate.
Image via Liz (perspicacious.org)/Flickr