Since the 2012 Republican National Convention I have heard quite a bit of talk regarding “school choice;” from Governor Jeb Bush’s speech down to analysis of Michael Williams’ appointed as Commissioner of the Texas Education Agency. However, it seems like there are people who are opposed to competition in schools and giving parents and students more power. How can something that would not hurt students and, in fact, improve those most disadvantaged be controversial?
From a purely “equitable” standpoint, school choice and vouchers do not put any students at a disadvantage. Quite the opposite, school choice would stop the double-taxation of parents with children in private schools or being homeschooled, would allow middle income children greater ability to afford better quality education, and would give the most disadvantaged children some leverage in their education. For example, according to the Council for American Private Education the average K-12 private school (both parochial and non-sectarian) costs just over $10,000 while the average state expenditure per student is $11,000 according to the National Center for Education Statistics; this actually gives parents $1,000 in extra buying power to choose the best education for their son or daughter.
Furthermore, parents who have some money to expend on education but not enough to cover the costs of private schools would now be given some assistance while not being double-taxed. Most noticeably, this would give a voice to those lower-income students who are overrepresented in underperforming schools. Competition is a good thing; so shouldn’t we want more competition in the sector of government that is supposed to prepare our future to be competitive in the workforce?
School choice not only applies to private and charter schools, but also to the public school system which is failing students. By giving parents more leverage in their children’s education, we are empowering them to be more involved in their schools and thus demand higher standards and more accountability! This is exactly what the public school system needs, more questioning. When parents are not engaged, schools can get away with mediocrity and waste. The anecdote then is to give parents a say in the education of their children. As someone who attended pubic school in a low-performing part of the state, I can say I was glad I was given a choice through a “magnet program;” however, not everyone has that same opportunity.
Though there are some legitimate concerns with the logistics of operating any type of school voucher system or “open enrollment,” the basic idea undoubtedly meets and exceeds the goal of public education, which is to prepare students to work hard and succeed on their own merits. I’m sure we can all agree that poor education is hurting our economy because students are not being adequately prepared for “real life.” For these reasons, it is imperative that Texas lead the way in reforming public education by empowering parents and students to demand the quality education that we deserve.