Like high school or college graduation, the end of National School Choice Week marks the commencement of a nationwide push for parental control over education. All across America, parents and state and local leaders are pushing to increase the number of quality educational options available to children.
In Indiana, Governor Mitch Daniels is supporting a drive to provide vouchers to low-income children to attend a private school of their choice. Similarly, in Pennsylvania, there is bipartisan support for a plan to provide scholarships of up to $9,000 for low-income children to attend a private school of their choice. Plans are also underway to expand Pennsylvania’s Educational Improvement Tax Credit program, which provides tax credits to businesses that donate to scholarship-granting organizations, which in turn provide vouchers to children to attend schools that best meet their needs.
And Florida, in true Sunshine State form, is pursuing the most aggressive plan in the country to provide school choice to children throughout the state. Patricia Levesque, the executive director of the Foundation for Florida’s Future, which was founded by former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, explains how the plan for education savings accounts could revolutionize education:
In a few months, the [Florida] Legislature is likely to consider a bill that would extend choice to all parents. The law would empower parents with the ability to open a special bank account—an Education Savings Account—to fund their child’s education. Parents would be eligible for an annual grant for education—about 85 percent of per pupil funding that is provided to public schools—to use to send their children to the school of their choice—public, charter, private or virtual. … The real debate comes down to just one question. Who makes better decisions about a child’s education—parents or the government?
Levesque hits the nail on the head: School choice is about answering that fundamental question of who should control a child’s education—the child’s parents or the government. Robust school choice options ensure that it’s parents who are in the driver’s seat.
It’s unfortunate that the Obama Administration continues to ignore the benefits of school choice. It’s unfortunate that the Administration still looks to government to improve education. Lance Izumi, director of education studies at the Pacific Research Institute, outlines the disconnect President Obama seems to have with school choice:
Mr. Obama also called for 100,000 new science, technology, engineering and math teachers [in his state of the union address]. He cited India’s focus on math and science education, but failed to mention that much of India’s higher-performing education takes place not in the country’s dysfunctional public schools, but in its burgeoning private-school sector, which educates a third of all Indian children. Even more significant, under India’s Right to Education law, poor children receive publicly funded vouchers to attend private schools. When it comes to school choice, however, Mr. Obama is oddly inconsistent.
President Obama is making the same mistake that too many Administrations before him have made: He continues to believe that this time, Washington will get it right. In the meantime, many countries around the world are beginning to decentralize education.
National School Choice Week marks the beginning of something big: A nationwide movement to put power back in the hands of parents and opportunity back in the grasps of all of America’s children. It has shined a bright spotlight on the work of state and local leaders to grow school choice options for children, and it is certainly the beginning of good things to come in 2011.