School choice: Good for students, good for America

Armstrong Williams | 3/20/2014, 1:46 p.m.
The idea that parents have no control over where their children go to school is unthinkable.
Armstrong Williams

The idea that parents have no control over where their children go to school is unthinkable. However, the current public school education system in America is exactly that. Children must go to a school based not on choice, but on five numbers—their ZIP code.

If we take a closer look at public schools across America, we discover a disappointing scene. Public schools, particularly in America cities, have continued to fail at providing the solid education our children deserve. Ask yourself this question: If you were a parent living in Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, Atlanta or any other major city, would you want to send your kid to the local public school? Parents are desperate for other options, and it would be a crime not to give them some.

Parents have become so desperate to get their kids out of failing public schools and into better ones that some have gone to jail for it. In Connecticut, a mother by the name of Tracy McDowell was thrown in jail for sending her 6-year-old son to a school district she didn’t reside in. In Ohio, a mother by the name of Kelly Williams-Bolar was also thrown in prison after falsifying her address and sending her two daughters to a school district she didn’t live in. Stories like theirs are not uncommon. Many parents are willing to do whatever they have to in order to ensure the best possible education for their kids. This is why school voucher programs are such a good idea.

A school voucher program helps provide funding for low-income families so they have enough money to send their kids to a private school, a religious school or a charter school. Thirteen states, as well as Washington, D.C., already have school voucher programs. The popularity of these programs shed light on just how unsatisfied parents are with their local public schools. North Carolina recently started their school voucher program called “Opportunity Scholarship.” After three days, over 1,400 families had applied to receive a school voucher. Across the country, over 500,000 students are currently on charter school waiting lists, desperately trying to get accepted into a better school.

Empowering parents with the freedom to choose what school they want their child to attend is the right thing to do. Parents should have the freedom to send their kid to a public school, a private school, a religious school, a charter school, a home school or even a virtual school. The current system we have forces parents to pay taxes that go to funding public school education but then doesn’t allow them to choose which school they want their kid to attend. If every parent is paying into the system, why can’t they have a say as to where that money goes? Is it wrong for a parent to decide how their own tax money is spent?

The teachers’ unions would say yes. Right now there are multiple court cases in which teachers’ unions are suing to block school voucher programs. In North Carolina, where the school voucher program is overwhelmingly popular, the North Carolina Association of Educators is currently suing the State Education Assistance Authority in an attempt to stop their school voucher program. Apparently, teachers’ unions believe they have more authority than parents in the education of their own children.