Parents Deserve More School Choice

Published November 19, 2016

Our presidential candidates didn’t talk much about education policy, but voters in 11 states took to the polls on Nov. 8 and decided what type of schools students should be able to attend, how much money schools should get, who should run the schools, and what students in those schools should learn.

Heartsick parents in Massachusetts — where 32,646 kids are currently stuck on charter school waiting lists — are upset at the prospect of being forced to send their children to traditional public schools after voters decided not to lift the cap on the number of charters allowed in the state. In other states across the country, parents are left frustrated and distraught at the hampering effects ballot initiatives will have on their ability to educate their children as they see fit.

Every democratic election cycle ends with winners and losers, people who didn’t get their way and must make the best of it by relying on compromise. The winners in Massachusetts this time around were the teachers unions. But should education policy ever have a “losers” list? Should parents have to depend on the opinions of other people—including people with different or contrary values, those who don’t have kids, or those who don’t even like kids — to decide how they’re allowed to raise their children?

Education is at the top of the long list of facets of life the government shouldn’t be involved in.

It is deeply complex and inherently personal.

Unfortunately, in Massachusetts and many other places across the United States, everyone else has more of a say in how to educate a child than the child’s parents. It’s wrong, and it’s why we need to limit the government’s involvement in education.

It’s unlikely government will leave education alone anytime soon, but in the meantime, we can empower parents to have more control by “going local” (a favorite catchphrase of the left) through school choice programs, such as education savings accounts, or ESAs, which bring education decisions to the most “local” source possible: the family.

ESAs give parents access to the funding designated for their child’s public school education to spend on education alternatives, such as homeschooling textbooks, learning therapies and private school tuition. Teachers unions don’t like ESAs because they’re afraid parents’ freedom to choose will make public schools irrelevant. With ESAs, however, parents are still free to send their children to government schools; the difference is public schools will have to work to keep students, and that appears to teachers unions to be just too much to ask.

Lawmakers should take a cue from parents themselves: When children (in this case, the citizenry) don’t get along, they are separated. Similarly, parents strive to treat their kids equally and with fairness. Why shouldn’t schools do the same for the people they are supposed to serve?

Universal education savings accounts would give every parent the same freedoms, rights and access to educational resources for their children. It doesn’t get any more “fair” or “equal” than that.

[Originally Published in the Boston Herald]