FORD AND HINER: Moms believe in vouchers

They want to decide what is best education for kids

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One of the toughest days in a mother’s life is the moment when she lets her precious child walk through the door on the first day of school. Whether it is pre-kindergarten, kindergarten or first grade, a mother knows on that day her child truly isn’t a baby anymore.

But moms never let go of wanting the very best for their children, especially the best education. That is why moms across the country who can afford a coveted slot in a private school or a charter school often will snatch it up for a son or daughter.

A new poll conducted by Braun Research Inc. and released by the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice found that moms’ instincts are strong when it comes to school choice. An astounding majority - 61 percent - support school vouchers to obtain the best possible education for their children.

A voucher allows parents to use their own tax dollars to send their children to the public or private schools of their choice.

Mothers also make no distinction which children should be able to get a voucher. Seventy-one percent of moms said that vouchers should be made available to all children and that a child’s opportunity should not be denied based on a parent’s income or other criteria.

Often we see states adopt school-choice programs for children who attend failing schools or for children who are disabled or live in poor families. While those programs are lifesavers for thousands of children and are bold steps in the right direction, all children should have access to quality educational options, and no child should be excluded for arbitrary reasons that have nothing to do with an individual child’s needs.

Instead, the Braun poll shows moms think theyknow if a school isn’t working for a son or daughter and should have the choice to pick another school that might better suit the child’s learning style.

Of course, moms support school choice more than others, but Braun’s poll also shows across-the-board support for vouchers (55 percent). It’s just that moms feel stronger than others about vouchers (61 percent) and strongly favor vouchers for all children (71 percent).

Moms, however, want to believe in their public schools. They only want school choice because public schools sometimes don’t work for some children.

For example, the poll shows that 65 percent of moms graded their local public school an A or a B. However, 83 percent of those moms gave private schools an A or a B, and 65 percent gave charter schools such high marks.

Moms like us know that public schools are an integral part of the community. But at times there are safety concerns and moms feel their children may be in danger attending school or en route to school. Or they may think the school doesn’t share their cultural, social or spiritual values. Or perhaps the neighborhood school just doesn’t perform well enough to address a child’s learning needs, and thus, that child doesn’t have a chance at academic success.

It is devastating to know that your child has little or no chance to be successful when you also know that you have no chance to access a better option for your child. Even where charter schools are available and in high demand, trusting your child’s future to winning a lottery to get in is not good enough.

Moms know what their sons and daughters need to excel.

The voucher idea is nothing new. It was first proposed by the father of the school-choice movement, Nobel laureate Milton Friedman. In his book “FreetoChoose: APersonalStatement,” he wrote, “Parents generally have both greater interest in their children’s schooling and more intimate knowledge of their capacities and needs than anyone else.”

As parents - and particularly moms - become more knowledgeable about vouchers and educational freedom, we will continue to see growing support for school choice. In the past year, Indiana, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Ohio, Wisconsin and Douglas County, Colo., added or expanded voucher programs.

Moms have it right when it comes to their children. The more choices they have to make sure their children’s futures are bright, the more secure they are that the next generation will turn out just fine.

Virginia Walden Ford was executive director of D.C. Parents for School Choice and currently works with the Arkansas Parent Network. Leslie Hiner is vice president of the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice.

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