According to many parents, success of students is not a priority for government and teacher unions. That may be about to change.
A formidable education is one of the keys to a successful future – both sides of the political aisle agree — so why does school choice continue to be such a divisive issue?
A student’s best interest is the ultimate goal of expanding educational opportunity. Giving parents the right to choose a school that’s the bet fit for their son or daughter sounds pretty simple and straightforward. Who knows what’s best for their own child?
What’s more, should a child be denied a better education because of the zip code he resides in?
But there are those who rail against school choice. Opponents include the powerful teachers’ unions who oppose educational choice for students, arguing it takes much-needed funding from the coffers of the public school system. Another teacher’s organization makes the case against vouchers on their website.
At the end of January, an unprecedented number of events are planned during National School Choice Week, an event that takes place each January to call attention to school choice and its benefits for students.
Tens of millions of people are expected to take part in the events across the country that highlight educational opportunity, according to the National School Choice Week organization, a nonpartisan public awareness effort.
School choice has also been highlighted in recent months as a result of President-elect Donald Trump’s vow to expand educational opportunity. His pick of Betsy DeVos as the U.S. Department of Education secretary, who’s a staunch supporter of school choice, shows his commitment to giving students and parents expanded opportunities.
School choice could be expected to be a more polarizing issue in the months to come.
In a January 9 speech, American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten called DeVos “the most anti-public education nominee for secretary of education in the history of the department.”
Weingarten is ignoring the fact that charter schools, school vouchers and educational savings accounts have given parents the freedom to send children to the school of their choosing and have made a real difference in the lives of children.
In Wisconsin, for instance, one senator wrote recently in the Journal Sentinel that students there are thriving under school choice and that grades were way up.
“This school year, nearly 34,000 Wisconsin students are participating in the Milwaukee, Racine and statewide choice programs. It’s easy to see why. Recent scores from the Forward and ACT tests indicate that voucher students from low-income families attending choice schools consistently perform better than their peers at nearby public schools,” wrote state Senator Leah Vukmir. “Students are thriving in these alternative environments, they are proving to be winners for the state of Wisconsin, and they deserve our continued support.”
Across the country, charter schools continue to enroll more students and grow in popularity, and nearly 1 million students are on the waiting list across the country, according to the National Charter School Alliance. A recent study, the alliance indicates, shows 80 percent of parents would favor a charter school in their community.
Even more promising is that the Alliance found charter schools were helping “more students to become academically proficient than their district counterparts.”
Surveys tell the numbers, but parents and children and the difference that school choice has made in their lives are the best testament.
One mother wrote that sending her son to a charter school has made all the difference. Lisa Collins said at the age of 10, her son hated school and struggled academically. He had behavioral issues at school and spent more of his time out of the classroom than in it.
After a few months at a charter school, Collins wrote that she knows she made the right choice for her son. She said in a short time, she saw his confidence grow. Before the charter school enrollment, “he thought he was dumb and couldn’t learn. His goal was to quit school. Now, he is talking about going to college! This might have never happened if he had continued at his old school,” Collins wrote in the Mississippi First newspaper.
In Camden, NJ, Lakeia Jackson wrote about her son who is also thriving at a charter school. His reading level has improved two grades and he even gets excited to attend school on Saturday, she wrote in an op-ed piece to the Courier Post.
Another mother posted a video online for the California Charter Schools Association and described her son’s struggle in first and second grade along with his failure to adjust. When he attended a charter school she said “his education went to a whole new level.”
One son and mother interviewed recently by the Boston Globe credit school choice as not only improving his grades and giving him a brighter future, but saving him from becoming a “gun-toting” kid in the hood.
Angelo Jones said he felt left behind at his old school. “I felt that I was not doing as much as I should be.” The charter school he attends now has taught him respect and the importance of doing his work.
The most recent study on school choice shows that school choice improves academic outcomes for students, moves students from more racially segregated schools to more integrated schools, and also saves taxpayers and school districts millions of dollars. In addition, it also showed school choice programs improved tolerance and civic performance of students. Those students who participated in educational choice were more likely to volunteer and give more to charity when compared to their public school counterparts.
But teachers’ unions don’t focus on the positives. And one has to ask themselves why? Are they looking out for the students’ best interest, or the interest of their union members?