Governors across the country are leading National School Choice Week celebrations and donning bright yellow scarves, the event’s symbol. They’re raising their voices to demand better for students — especially poor, minority and special-needs kids trapped in failing schools.
It’s a politically savvy move: A stunning 52% of parents say they’re considering (or considered in the last year) finding a new or different school for one of their children. Parents are sick of being told they must accept school closures, lowered academic standards, mask mandates and controversial curricula.
We shop for a dentist, a realtor and a university. Why not shop for K-12 schools? Would you only visit a doctor in your ZIP code? Obviously not.
Competition means better education quality because it allows parents to hold failing schools accountable. Right now, there’s largely a monopoly on K-12 public schools, and monopolies hurt consumers — in this case, kids.
Every child is unique and thus learns differently. Some kids thrive in local public schools, but others learn better at a public charter school, magnet school, online or in a private or home-learning environment.
Don’t buy the lie — pushed by people like Bill de Blasio — that school-choice programs destroy public education. Public charter schools are public schools. And private school-choice programs granting public funding for a child’s education support “public education” too because they save state and local governments and taxpayers millions of dollars annually, as my colleague Ginny Gentles notes.
Private schools also show better results for students than public schools, contributing to a better-educated society and higher-earning taxpayers in the future. Educating a student in traditional public schools almost always costs more than the price of scholarships to send them elsewhere. An EdChoice analysis of 40 educational-choice programs serving students in fiscal year 2018 found they cost an average of $5,000 per student, compared with the $14,000 average per-student expenditure for kids in public K-12 schools.
One big reason? Teachers-union bosses demand pensions and retirement benefits that are often far cushier than those in private-sector education. Union leaders also demand more overtime pay and other perks than in charter and private schools. Teachers-union bosses reward liberal lawmakers in return with millions of dollars in political donations. Public-school costs are also driven by huge growth in administrative staff and costs — in other words, bureaucracy.
Another reason to cheer for school choice? It helps kids with special needs. The American Federation for Children reports that 23 scholarship programs in 14 states exist specifically to serve such students. Students use scholarships for private elementary and secondary schools that provide customized support. Last year, more than 83,000 students with special needs benefited from private choice programs.
Numerous studies show school choice, including charter schools, is wildly popular with black, Latino and other minority families. It’s no wonder — they offer an escape hatch.
During my middle-school years, I attended two very well-funded, inner-city schools in Kansas City, Mo. — a city run by Democrats. But these schools were so horrible that in 2000, Kansas City Public Schools became the first district in the nation to lose accreditation. I was one of only a few white students in my classrooms, and I saw the violence, drug abuse and shoddy education many black students endure.
This harrowing experience taught me how much, from a racial-justice standpoint, we must push for school choice and educator accountability. It’s even more relevant now with COVID shutdowns and their harmful academic, social and psychological effects on students. My school years showed me how children in majority-black environments — almost exclusively run by Democrats — are neglected by the systems liberals create and maintain. Bullied by teachers unions, these liberals, with their hollow lip service for racial justice, keep black children trapped in toxic public schools.
Sadly, Kansas City is far from the only place on which Democrats have an education stranglehold. Nationwide, liberals fight to stop the flow of taxpayer dollars to more worthy educators at public-charter and private schools.
The verdict is in: School choice greatly benefits special-needs, poor and minority kids, is more affordable for taxpayers and gets better results than public schools. Time to don those yellow scarves!