School Choice for the Future

By Amelia Hamilton Published on April 4, 2015

Around the country, school choice has been making the news, most recently in Alabama, New Jersey and New York. More discussion about school choice is always a good thing because, as people become informed, they tend to realize what a great opportunity it is for children.

I am passionate about the right of every family to have the right to choose the school that best fits their needs. Those rights should not have economic or geographical boundaries. That seems reasonable, doesn’t it? Unfortunately, it’s under fire in many communities.

School choice is not just an issue for parents. The children being educated today, well or poorly, will soon be business owners, civic leaders and voters. Their education will dramatically shape our lives down the road.

It’s an issue of justice, too. A child shouldn’t be stuck in a failing school just because of where his or her parents live, feeding multi-generational cycles of poverty. Kids from every income class can succeed, but they need the right environment to do so. This is, at its heart, a civil rights issue, and the solution is school choice.

The term “school choice” can mean public charter schools in under-served areas to bring new options, or vouchers and tax credits that give children the opportunity to attend private schools without the hefty price tags. For many families, it means homeschooling without an inordinate amount of red tape.

The common denominator is educational freedom, the ability for parents to determine what is best for their needs, values and the strengths of their children, and get their children an education that fits. This gives kids the opportunities to be the first in their family to attend college, to expect something better out of life and to make that expectation a reality.

Of course, we can count on government and unions to get in the way. They have controlled education for far too long, and it is a struggle to wrench it away from them. Perhaps it’s time for a reminder that they work for the families of the community, and not the other way around.

The power of the free market can be leveraged to make education better. According to a recent study by the Freidman Foundation For Educational Choice, “Expanding school choice and competition — ideally, transforming a government monopoly into a universal school choice system — would significantly boost both educational attainment and education quality. In turn, economic growth would be spurred through an assortment of channels.”

When families have a choice, schools have to compete, the study found. This has a positive economic impact in the future by creating more skilled and productive workers through better education. In the present, educational choice reduces taxpayer costs by reducing costs within the schools.

Improving our educational system is especially important as our workforce changes. Another recent Friedman study summarized the situation this way:

Sandwiched between the young and old is a shrinking percentage of workers that must provide for both their needs. These workers are becoming the rope in an unprecedented demographic tug-of-war because there is only so much wealth they can create. States will be forced to juggle competing demands with limited resources.

I encourage you to see what the landscape is for school choice in your state and do what you can to support it. Children aren’t cookie-cutter, and education shouldn’t be either. Schools can be enriching places that unlock the potential of a child, and school choice is the key.

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