TURNER: Our Children Deserve The Best Opportunities. Let’s Start With School Choice
Scott Turner on January 26, 2023
Every American student deserves the opportunity to receive a quality education, a pathway to fulfilling dreams, and upward economic and social mobility. Unfortunately, many schools in our current public education system achieve none of these goals for so many students across the country.
The beauty of school choice is that it is indiscriminate of those it benefits. Children from low-income families and students with special needs are significantly aided by educational choice, as well as students from middle- and upper-class families.
Last year, many areas of the country experienced important progress in school choice. Fourteen states passed school choice legislation, including the landmark Empowerment Scholarship Program in Arizona, which was extended to every single K-12 student. This program provides for Education Savings Accounts, which allow parents to receive a portion of the funds the state would have spent on public school education to use for an alternative educational environment. Another victory occurred at the United States Supreme Court, where the Court ruled that Maine’s school voucher program could not exclude faith-based schools. This ruling set an important precedent for religious freedom and parental rights that will continue to play an important role in the movement for educational freedom. Additionally, the governors of Virginia and North Carolina signed budgets with increased funding for school choice scholarship programs.
The school choice movement also scored numerous victories at the ballot box in the 2022 midterm elections. Warriors for educational choice, including Governor Ron DeSantis of Florida, Chris Sununu of New Hampshire, and Kim Reynolds of Iowa, won their elections handily after making this issue a major part of their platforms. Advocates for parental rights and school choice also experienced success on the local level in many areas.
The research on school choice indicates a strong correlation between states with more academic freedom and high student test scores. After last year’s results from the National Assessment of Educational Progress showed a dramatic decline in reading and math scores for American fourth and eighth graders, policymakers should look to school choice as a way to assist students with learning loss. The decline in academic achievement scores was the largest since the testing began in 1990, and only 32% of the Nation’s fourth graders scored at or above a proficient level in 2022. At the same time, African American fourth-grade students scored 28 points lower than white students in the same grade. By increasing school choice, policymakers can enable families to find the schools that best suit their children’s individual needs, which will be critical in improving test scores across our Nation.
Not only does school choice often lead to better results for students, but it also restores control of a child’s education to parents, who are the people best suited for making decisions about which schools are best for their children. Allowing parents to practice their right to choose where their child is educated meets the present moment in American history. In national polling, 72% support school choice programs, and our country continues to see a growing demand for parental rights and educational transparency.
Two of the most critical civil rights issues in modern-day America are parental rights and educational freedom. Our children deserve the best opportunities we can give them, and these opportunities start in schools. If we invest in our students and families with smart public policy, we will enable a future generation of American leaders to create greater outcomes than we can ever imagine.
Scott Turner serves as Chair of the America First Policy Institute’s Center for Education Opportunity, and previously served as the executive director of the White House Opportunity and Revitalization Council as well as a Texas state representative
The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of the Daily Caller News Foundation.
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