By Victor Skinner
BATON ROUGE, La. – Some education professionals simply can’t handle the idea of parents having a voice in their child’s education.
In most states, lawmakers and public school teachers and principals have called the shots for decades, dictating the government school each child must attend based on arbitrary geographic boundaries. There was typically no consideration of what types of learning programs worked best for the child or their academic interests.
And if school officials declared a child to be learning disabled or troublesome, that’s how the student was officially labeled. Parents had little recourse to seek a second opinion or to choose another school with a different focus and a more optimistic educational outlook.
That’s no longer the case in many places, thanks to school choice.
Across the nation, parental dissatisfaction with public schools and declining academic results have combined to push lawmakers and decision makers to accept a new reality: Traditional public education isn’t always the best option for all students.
Charter and private schools in New York City, Chicago, New Orleans, Milwaukee, Washington D.C. and countless other cities and suburbs across the country are proving that it’s possible to reach students that public schools have failed, and to push those students to achieve great things.
Increased educational options are also forcing public school officials to sharpen their focus on the best ways to reach students who were previously labeled and cast aside. Parents now have options, and they’re using them.
But that’s a scary proposition for public school “professionals,” and the unions that represent them – both of which depend on a steady flow of students for their livelihood. Many have lashed out in an attempt to re-establish their authority.
There was Michigan Elementary and Middle Schools Principals Association Director Debbie Squires, who arrogantly testified to lawmakers that “Educators know best how to serve children, not necessarily regular residents.”
More recently, union apologist Diane Ravitch posted the musings of a Louisiana teacher on her education blog:
“Certainly (parents) should have a say and be part of the decision making about the child’s education, but parents also starve, beat, tie up, and rape their children. They also spoil them rotten and don’t expect them to do anything and teach them that they are ‘entitled.’ You have to have a license to drive a car, for your dog, and to practice most professions. No license is required to be a parent,” the unidentified teacher wrote.
“I agree that some school programs are bad. They have no vision for the children’s success. They think poor kids are in a pipeline to prison. I have known some bad teachers, some lazy, some incompetent, some functionally illiterate, two drunks and some just not bright enough to teach. But at least 95 percent of teachers do their best and are competent and do better as they get experience,” wrote the teacher.
Michigan education columnist Julie Mack also recently penned an editorial about how school choice can be a bad thing, when bad parents are in control:
“In fact, the assumption that parents always know best is silly as thinking school officials are always right. For every family fighting the good fight against a block-headed school bureaucrat, there’s another family utterly undermining their child’s education via deplorable parenting practices.
“Do we really need to give more autonomy to a mom who can’t enforce a bedtime or the dad who disparages school as a waste of time? Should we trust the judgment of a parent who constantly tells their kid how stupid he or she is? Certainly, such families need attention and support, but more autonomy? Really?”
Let’s get this straight: Since some parents are dopes and will make poor decisions for their kids, all parents should have their rights limited?
That’s not how America works.
We can’t write off all parents’ ability to make a researched decision on where to send their children to school because some “starve, beat, tie up, and rape their children.”
We’re a country of freedom and responsibility, and the public education model until recently has gone against the grain. We’ve been told what to do. And the academic results speak for themselves; America is falling farther and farther behind other developing countries.
School choice, whether through increased charter school options or private school vouchers, is creating a true marketplace for families to educate their children. The competition for students – and the government education funding that comes with them – will invariably drive improved academic results. Increased options are engaging parents in their child’s education because they now have the power to control it.
Parents are researching the best schools, comparing programs and academic achievements, and talking to their children about where they want to go in life. It’s the same as searching for the right college, only earlier.
Choice has worked with every other market in America where consumers are free to choose the product that’s best for them, from cars to cell phones to computers to colleges. When Americans have options, we generally choose the best and companies are forced to constantly improve or wither away.
The same could be true with public education. Sure, there will be some poor performing charter schools, or parents who don’t do what’s best for their child, but those are not legitimate excuses for continuing with a system that has proven to be ineffective for millions of kids trapped in failing government schools.