House Budget Committee chairman Paul Ryan (R–WI) made a strong case yesterday for the need to ensure that every child in America has the opportunity to attend a school of choice. “If we want to restore the promise of America,” Ryan stated, “then we must reform our broken public-school system.”
Ryan is right.
Millions of children pass through our nation’s broken public schools year after year. Too many of those children have no other choice. Confined by their parent’s zip codes and economic means, they are assigned to government schools, where, in some of our nation’s largest cities, they are just as likely to drop out as they are to graduate.
Providing those children with a choice isn’t a radical idea: School choice means funding children instead of institutions and allowing dollars to follow them to educational options that best meet their unique learning needs. But no matter how common-sense school choice might seem, the usual suspects—special interest groups concerned with maintaining a self-serving status quo—will try to stand in the way. As Ryan noted:
The special interests that dominate this system always seem to have their own futures lined up pretty nicely. But when you think about the future of the young adults that the system has failed, many will face a lot of grief and disappointment—and their country owes them better than that.
School choice places the interests of children (and parents, teachers, and taxpayers) before the interests of the adults in the antiquated assignment-by-zip-code public education system. Above all, school choice creates freedom in a moribund system stifled by government regulation and based on a monopolistic design that is alien to nearly every other aspect of American life. To improve American education, that has to change. As Ryan concluded:
When you set aside all the obstacles to education reform, you are left with one obvious fact: Every child in America should have this kind of opportunity. Sending your child to a great school should not be a privilege of the well-to-do.… I believe that choice should be available to every parent in our country, wherever they live. Education reform is urgent, and freedom is the key.