Governors across the country lead National School Choice Week celebrations and wear bright yellow scarves as a symbol of the event. They are raising their voices to demand better for students – especially poor, minority and special-needs children trapped in failing schools.
It’s a politically savvy decision: 52% of parents say they are considering (or have considered in the last year) finding a new or different school for one of their children. Parents are tired of being told they have to put up with school closings, falling academic standards, mask mandates and controversial curricula.
We are looking for a dentist, a real estate agent and a university. Why not shop for K-12 schools? Would you like alone see a doctor in your postal code? Obviously not.
Competition means better quality education because it allows parents to hold failing schools accountable. Right now, there is largely a monopoly on public K-12 schools, and monopolies hurt consumers — in this case, children.
Each child is unique and therefore learns differently. Some children thrive in local public schools, but others learn best in a public charter school, magnet school, online, or in a private or home learning environment.
Don’t buy the lie – pushed by the likes of Bill de Blasio – that school choice programs are destroying public education. Public charter schools are public schools. And private school choice programs that provide public funding for a child’s education also support “public education” because they save state and local governments and taxpayers millions of dollars a year, as my colleague Ginny Gentles notes.
Private schools also show better student outcomes than public schools, contributing to a better educated society and better paid 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 student-serving educational choice programs in fiscal year 2018 found that they cost an average of $5,000 per student, compared to an average expenditure of $14,000 per student for children in public schools in kindergarten to 12th grade.
A big reason? The bosses of the teachers’ unions demand pensions and retirement benefits that are often much more comfortable than those in private education. Union leaders also demand more overtime pay and other benefits than at charter and private schools. Teacher union bosses are rewarding liberal lawmakers in return with millions of dollars in political donations. Public school costs are also driven by enormous growth in administrative staff and costs – in other words, bureaucracy.
Another reason to encourage school choice? It helps children with special needs. The American Federation for Children reports that 23 scholarship programs in 14 states exist specifically to serve these students. Students use scholarships for private primary and secondary schools that offer personalized support. Last year, more than 83,000 students with special needs benefited from private choice programs.
Numerous studies show that school choice, including charter schools, is extremely popular with black, Latino, and other minority families. No wonder – they offer an escape hatch.
During my college years, I attended two very well-funded schools in downtown Kansas City, Missouri, 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 the few white students in my classes, and I saw the violence, drug abuse, and shoddy education that many black students endure.
This heartbreaking experience taught me how important, from a racial justice perspective, we need to push for school choice and educator accountability. It’s even more relevant now with the COVID shutdowns and their adverse academic, social, and psychological effects on students. My school years showed me how children in predominantly black environments — almost exclusively run by Democrats — are neglected by the systems liberals create and maintain. Intimidated by teachers’ unions, these liberals, with their hollow mouths for racial justice, keep black children trapped in toxic public schools.
Unfortunately, Kansas City is far from the only place Democrats have a stranglehold on education. Across the country, liberals are fighting to stop the flow of taxpayer dollars to more worthy educators in public and private schools.
The verdict is in: school choice greatly benefits special needs, poor, and minority children, is more affordable for taxpayers, and outperforms public schools. It’s time to put on those yellow scarves!
Carrie Sheffield is a Senior Policy Analyst at Voice of Independent Women.