The idea that parents have no control over where their children go to school sounds unthinkable, but America’s public education system is exactly that. Children must go to a school based not on choice, but on five numbers — their ZIP code.
If we look closely at public schools across America, we discover a disappointing scene. Public schools, particularly in the big cities, have continued to fail to provide the solid education our children deserve. Ask yourself this question: If you were a parent living in Washington, Philadelphia, Atlanta or any other major city, would you want to send your child 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.
Many parents are willing to do whatever they have to in order to ensure the best possible education for their kids, which 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.
About a dozen states, plus the District of Columbia, already have school voucher programs, and their popularity sheds light on just how unsatisfied parents are with their local public schools. North Carolina recently started a voucher program called Opportunity Scholarship. After three days, more than 1,400 families had applied. Across the country, more than 500,000 students are on charter school waiting lists, desperately trying to get accepted into better schools.
Empowering parents with the freedom to choose what school they want their child to attend is the right thing to do. Our system 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 child 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 though would answer: Yes. Right now, multiple 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 suing the State Education Assistance Authority in an attempt to stop the program. Apparently, unions think they have more authority than parents do in the education of their own children.
The majority of politicians on the left, including President Obama, have given into the power of the teachers unions. Republicans continue to introduce school choice legislation, but no progress is made because the president and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid refuse to bring it up.
Last month, Sen. Tim Scott, South Carolina Republican, introduced a bill that would provide $11 billion in federal funding to low-income families for vouchers to attend private schools. Many of these low-income families are of color and live in dangerous inner cities, but it would seem that politics is once again coming before our children’s education. The chance of this legislation passing is slight.
But the status quo cannot last forever. America’s education system is based on a top-down, one-size-fits-all government approach, but it doesn’t have to stay this way. America’s children are blessed with a variety of gifts and skills. The government doesn’t know your child like you do. Parents, not government, understand the strengths and weaknesses of their children and how best they learn and grow.
School choice is a fair and simple way to begin allowing the parent to make the decision of how best to educate their child. After all, God has given parents the primary responsibility of educating their children.
• Armstrong Williams is the author of the book “Reawakening Virtues.” Join him from 4-5 a.m. and 6-7 p.m. daily on Sirius/XM Power 128. Become a fan on Facebook, and follow him on Twitter.