The following is the first in a series of guest articles from Greg George, an Advocacy Coordinator with the Michigan Association of Public School Academies (MAPSA):
This week marks the celebration of National School Choice Week, which provides an opportunity to showcase how empowering parents through more choices improves education. Participants in National School Choice Week support a variety of school choice options — from traditional public schools to public charter schools, magnet schools, private schools, online learning, and homeschooling. This year, over 5,500 events have been independently planned across the country by various groups, schools, and organizations.
There is no question that our current education system leaves children behind. Those most in need of a quality school are, unfortunately, the least likely to get one. And worse, opportunities for those without a quality education are severely limited. To quote former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice: “If I can look at your zip code and I can tell whether you’re going to get a good education, we’ve got a real problem.”
So, how do we improve education? Consider how are other goods and services improved over time and the answer becomes clear: choice.
Choice always has that effect; it drives innovation and competition to produce higher quality goods and services. We see it every day in every industry. Education is no different, but unfortunately, it is treated differently.
Opponents of school choice say that more options for parents harm students’ educational opportunities and school quality. That’s just silly. Because if true, our universities and community colleges wouldn’t be some of the finest learning institutions in the world.
You see, in higher education the dollars follow the students, not the institutions. This puts students and parents in the driver’s seat. They start asking what they are getting for their money and what works best for them. This is exactly what is missing for many K-12 students in the United States.
Opponents also argue that deciding where and how to education children is far too important for parents to make. They aren’t educators, you see. But parents make choices for their children every single day that are just as important as education — including food, shelter, clothing, transportation, and health care. They should be given the ability to find educational options that work for their children’s needs. This is the only way to adequately provide more opportunities to children.
Opponents also argue that school choice does not help the poor. This is also silly: school choice is an incredibly attractive option for lower-income families. Currently, only the rich have the luxury of mobility and are able to pay for good, private schools. Choice would empower the poor to use their dollars to find a school that works best for their children.
The truth about school choice is clear: choices empower people. That is exactly what is needed to improve education in America so no child is taken for granted.