by Erik Telford:
The fight for children’s education will take place not in Washington DC, but in communities across America.
For Knya Green, a student at HOPE Christian School in Milwaukee, school is more than just a building with classrooms. Thanks to her mother’s decision to send her to a private school, Knya, now a senior, has spent the past four years getting personal attention from her teachers and thriving as a family with her classmates.
“I like that we’re like a close-knit, small school but we are excelling above the big schools in Milwaukee,” she said recently to a group of bloggers. “So that’s what I like about our school, that’s what makes us different.”
Knya’s strive to pursue higher education comes from her school instilling in its students the importance of a college education when seeking a better future. While that passion for a better future is fueled in part by Knya’s dream to be able to provide for a family of her own one day, she says that without HOPE, her college dreams would probably never be a reality. And without the school choice program that allowed Knya’s mother, and not local bureaucrats, to decide where her daughter went to school, none of these opportunities would have even been on the table.
The battle for our children’s future is far from over as long as there are laws in place blocking parents from deciding where their children will be education. And the fight for school choice primarily takes place far from Washington, D.C.; in fact, it primarily plays out in local communities across America.
If we want to reform education and empower parents, local communities need to be aware of the benefits of school choice. In many states, the decision over a child’s future is taken away from the parent and left to distracted bureaucrats and policymakers. Inefficient policies stand in the way of students trying to grow and succeed.
While government bureaucrats deem parents free to make any other choices for their children, holding the most important choice—the ability to choose the best educational options—hostage sets our communities back. One of the country’s most basic principles, that of equal opportunity, is lost when the government plays the role of parent to our children.
The issue of school choice is, at its core, a local one, as families pour tax money into their communities’ school systems. What’s important is that the money follows the child and not the other way around. Some families may choose to send their children to schools in another town. The power of choice creates imminent competition, thus improving failing school systems and learning opportunities for students across the country. Students receiving opportunity scholarships rack up a graduation rate of over 90 percent which is 35 points higher than those who don’t and are cemented in a broken school system.
Because school choice is such a local issue, it often doesn’t get as much attention as it deserves. If we want to help our children and improve education, we’re going to have to make sure stories like Knya’s get told.
Erik Telford is Senior Vice President of the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity.