Waiting for Superman has left moviegoers rightfully outraged at the state of America’s education system. It’s an accurate portrayal. In many of the nation’s largest cities, fewer than half of all children graduate high school. Academic achievement and graduation rates have largely stagnated since the 1970s while countries around the world now outpace the United States.
Producer Davis Guggenheim rightly lays the blame squarely at the feet of organized labor. Education unions consistently stand in the way of promising education reforms such as school choice, which they view as a threat to their stranglehold on public education. And they are able to do this because of significant financial heft—often gleaned unwillingly from teachers in forced-unionism states who don’t necessarily agree with their agenda. During the 2007–2008 election cycle, the National Education Association and American Federation of Teachers spent more than $71 million on campaigns for issues and candidates, spending more than $100 per teacher in five states.
But while Guggenheim’s documentary accurately diagnoses the problem, the film seems short on solutions.
The good news is that we know what works, and we can all take steps today to help get American education back on track:
- Spread the news about the school choice solution. Along with the successful charter schools portrayed in Waiting for Superman, school choice through vouchers, tax credits, and other mechanisms is an effective education reform. Find out where school choice is on the move at Choices in Education.
- Help families’ voices be heard. Most of the families in Waiting for Superman remained stuck in failing public schools. What kind of difference does it make when families are able to choose a safe and effective school? Visit www.VoicesOfSchoolChoice.org to meet families whose lives have been changed through school choice.
- Don’t just tell what school choice can do—show it. Host screenings of The Heritage Foundation’s Let Me Rise: The Struggle to Save School Choice in the Nation’s Capital. The film features the personal stories and perspectives of District of Columbia families who are fighting to provide their children with a safe and effective education. It challenges people across the nation to better understand the critical need to improve urban education in America.
- Find out next steps from an education reformer on a Heritage podcast. Listen to Virginia Walden Ford, executive director of D.C. Parents for School Choice, give her take on Waiting for Superman.
- Host an education reform film festival. Waiting for Superman comes on the heels of other moving documentaries on the plight of American education, including Let Me Rise, The Lottery, The Cartel, The Street Stops Here, and Not As Good As You Think.
- Equip yourself as an education activist with weekly updates from Heritage. Sign up for Education Notebook to track and engage in the latest reform efforts in Washington and across the country.
- Call for state leadership on education reform. Don’t look to Washington to fix America’s education problems. States should be the leaders on education reform. Contact Heritage to order bookmarks with a checklist for how to turn the corner on education reform in your state. Hand out bookmarks to neighbors and other concerned citizens.
- Join forces for School Choice Week. Sign up to get information on National School Choice Week, January 23–29, 2011. School choice proponents from across the country will host events and place a spotlight on the benefits of school choice for all families.
The problem has been diagnosed. Now is the time to push for reforms that finally empower parents and children, not the education establishment. Be a part of the solution.