On Wednesday March 29, Betsy DeVos, the Secretary of Education, gave a thoughtful speech before the Brookings Institution. She appropriately noted that, “parents know what is best for their kids. No parent should be denied the opportunity to send his or her son or daughter to a school with confidence that he or she can learn, grow and be safe.”
The sad fact is that most parents and their children are trapped in their neighborhood public schools. Administrators and teacher unions have failed, consistently, to respond to the cry for responsibility and accountability. For example, in Chicago, the teacher’s union stood in the way of educational reform, preferring to keep things the way they were. But, those ways have failed the city and her residents, badly. According to the Illinois Policy Institute, “Forcing students to attend schools that routinely fail them is wrong and can leave scars that last well into the future. They need immediate relief, not broken promises about how things will change for the better five or ten years down the road.”
Traditional public schools, and their state government clients, stand in the way of educational choice. As Donald Trump Jr. remarked during the Republican Convention, “our schools used to be an elevator to the middle class; now they’re stalled on the ground floor. They’re like Soviet-era department stores that are run for the benefit of the clerks and not the customers, for the teachers and the administrators and not the students.”
Many states have recognized that another option is necessary. Many have opted to allow charter schools to fill the educational void. Charters are public schools held to the same standards as traditional public schools, but unlike the failing public schools, are subject to closure if they do not perform. In North Carolina, Charter schools have outscored their traditional public school peers in 12 out of 13 demographic categories.
Increasingly, parents and state government officials in communities with a preponderance of minorities are supporting school choice. The Department of Education has heard their concerns and has responded. In the proposed 2018 budget, the present administration has increased spending for charter and private school education.
DeVos noted in her speech that one parent believed the situation so dire that she had an “inalienable right” to choose for her child an educational alternative that worked in order to receive a decent education. DeVos’ words imply necessity, “There is no time to delay when a child’s educational future is at stake and all patience at repairing the broken system has been met with denial.”
As many parents in poor communities know, they need a choice so that their children might escape the stranglehold foisted upon them by the traditional public school system. Freedom and liberty demand that these parents have options available through school choice – “…a fundamental right too long denied to too many kids,” as DeVos declared.
Dr. Erik Root is Senior Policy Analyst with The Roger Bacon Academy. Dr. Root’s Ph.D. is in Political Science, and he has held positions with the John Locke Foundation and was Professor of Political Science at West Liberty University. Dr. Root also advises on authoring curricula in civics and government for the Academy and is a contributor to the American Spectator and American Greatness.