Our public education system, by and large, is a failure.
And although many pine for the days when it used to be great, it actually never really was that great. In the 40′s, 50′s and 60′s, public schools only needed to churn out average students, most of whom would go on to work in manufacturing or other lines of work which only required a high school diploma.
Today, employers are having a difficult time filling jobs because too many Americans lack the skills and/or education needed to perform those jobs effectively.
We have more and more people going to college these days, but they are completely unprepared to do so. In New York City for example, nearly 80 percent of high school graduates who choose to attend CUNY (City University of New York) need to take remedial courses. That means they need more instruction in basic subjects such as English and Math, before they can even begin college coursework.
The public school system in this country is failing the children of America. The public school system basically has a monopoly on education, including what is taught and the method of teaching. And the power of that system has been enhanced in large part due to the steely grip of teachers unions and the politicians who do their bidding. The only “reform” they are interested in is one that provides an ever increasing amount of taxpayer dollars.
As it stands now, unless parents have the money to send their children to private schools or the time (and often, money) to homeschool their kids, they are forced to send their children to schools that completely lack accountability. And they don’t need to be accountable because they’re the only game in town. The teachers unions know it and so do the politicians.
There is one solution that, at the very least, offers a way for many disadvantaged students to get a better shot at a proper education.
That is school choice.
School choice is the next civil rights battle in this country. If the GOP wants an issue that transcends race and is popular with large majorities of Americans, this is where they should stake their ground.
But it will be a hard-fought issue. Politicians (largely Democrats) will parrot whatever the powerful teachers unions spout. The teachers unions have an agenda that has nothing to do with “the children.” Their agenda is all about collective bargaining and power. And they will do whatever they can to maintain it, even if it comes at the expense of kids and their scholastic achievement.
In fact, recently, the anti-choice forces took their battle all the way to the Indiana Supreme Court.
The worst part is that most critics of school choice are people who have the means to send their kids to the best schools available to them. Yet they refuse to empower other parents to do the same for their children.
For years, critics have attempted to thwart school choice programs by using arguments such as:
1. Giving vouchers to students to attend private and parochial schools “takes money from public schools.”
- Wrong. Instead, it fosters competition and elevates academic standards. As kids attend better schools, public schools no longer have their monopoly on curriculums and standards, and they are forced to be competitive. There is zero evidence that public schools have been harmed financially as a result of school choice.
2. Kids in school choice programs do no better academically once they attend different schools.
- False. There have been a number of recent studies that have shown it absolutely has benefitted students (see here, here, and here).
3. Vouchers are unconstitutional because the money winds up going to parochial schools violating the “establishment clause.”
- Untrue. The Indiana Supreme Court decision dealt that argument a serious blow, as well as other such challenges.
- Twelve empirical studies have examined academic outcomes for school choice participants using random assignment, the “gold standard” of social science. Of these, 11 found that choice improves student outcomes. Six showed that all students benefit, while five concluded that some benefit and some are not affected. One study found no visible impact. No empirical study found a negative impact.
- Twenty-three empirical studies (including all methods) examined school choice’s impact on academic outcomes in public schools. Of these, 22 found that choice improves public schools and one found no visible impact. No empirical study found that choice harms public schools.
- Six empirical studies examined school choice’s fiscal impact on taxpayers. All six found that school choice saves money for taxpayers. No empirical study found a negative fiscal impact.
- Eight empirical studies examined school choice and racial segregation in schools. Of these, seven found that school choice moves students from more segregated schools into less segregated schools. One found no net effect on segregation from school choice. No empirical study found that choice increases racial segregation.
- Seven empirical studies examined school choice’s impact on civic values and practices, such as respect for the rights of others and civic knowledge. Of these, five found that school choice improves civic values and practices. Two found no visible impact from school choice. No empirical study found that school choice has a negative impact on civic values and practices.
Despite the plethora of data, it will not stop the anti-choice forces from trying to defeat school choice. And for proponents of school choice, the opportunity to counter the opposition is there for the taking. The best part is, people support school choice. The polls do not lie. More than 70% of Latino’s support school choice in some form. African-American support is not as high, but opposition is very low.
The battle lines have been drawn. This is in issue that should be fought at all levels of government.
Are you in?