- - Thursday, April 11, 2019

Dina’s son was struggling with his grades. He was being bullied by the other students. Not surprisingly, he didn’t care much for school.

So his mother took advantage of our statewide expansion of school choice in Wisconsin. She used a voucher to send him to a private school.

Dina’s son was a completely different student. He received good grades. He joined the football team. He even played in the band. Best of all, he loved going to school.

When I first met Dina, she was thrilled with her son’s transformation but scared that liberal politicians would take away her ability to send her son to the school that was right for him and she didn’t make enough money to pay for it on her own. She was careful not to criticize the public school her son had attended but made the point that this was not the right place for him. The results proved her right.

That’s why I trust parents. I trust them to make the right choice for their children.

For many families, the right choice is a traditional public school. That was true in our household as both of my sons went to a public elementary school, a public middle school and a public high school. They loved it and they received a quality education that prepared them for college and — more importantly — for life.

For other families, the right choice might be a charter school or a private school with a voucher, or a private school with a tuition tax deduction or it might even be a virtual school or a home school environment. Every child deserves access to a great education.

It should not matter where the child lives or what her or his parents do for a living or what they look like — every child deserves access to a great education.

When I was governor in Wisconsin, we invested more actual dollars into public education than ever before in the history of the state. More importantly, we eliminated tenure and seniority so schools can staff based on merit and pay based on performance. That means that they can hire the best and the brightest and keep them in the classroom.

Thankfully, we have many, many great public schools in Wisconsin. And our reforms help our school leaders provide the best possible education for our students.

But sometimes, the right choice for a family is not a traditional public school. We see it all the time in higher education. My own family is a good example.

As mentioned, both of my sons attended public schools through 12th grade. Matt then went on to graduate from Marquette University which is a Catholic school run by the Jesuits. Alex graduated from the University of Wisconsin which is obviously a public institution. Both of our sons received an excellent education and both received help with student loans from the federal government. One picked a private, religious university and the other a public university. Each picked the school that was right for him.

So why is it so difficult for some to imagine the same thing when it comes to K-12 education?

When it comes down to it, there are some people who fear choices.

They don’t want families to pick the right choice for their own children. Too often that leaves many low-income students in schools that fail them.

They fear teachers having the choice of whether or not to join the union. For example, a teacher in Milwaukee may choose to keep the $1,400 spent on union dues for herself and her family.

They don’t want the people who run our local schools being able to choose to staff based on merit and pay based on performance. Doing so will attract the best and the brightest to the classroom.

Instead, there are plenty of union bosses and other defenders of the education bureaucracy that want a monopoly on where parents can send their children to school. They want a monopoly on teachers being forced to pay dues to their unions. And they want to maintain seniority and tenure and other rules established by union contracts. They fear choice.

Now, the federal government is joining the fight. U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos is working with lawmakers on legislation to create Education Freedom Scholarships. The program will provide for a $5 billion annual federal tax credit for voluntary donations to state-based scholarship programs. This will be a supplement for successful initiatives at the state level currently providing quality educational choices for students across America. Please contact your member of Congress and let her or him know that you support Education Freedom Scholarships.

I trust parents. Let’s find more ways to help parents like Dina make the right choice for their children.

• Scott Walker was the 45th governor of Wisconsin. You can contact him at swalker@washingtontimes.com or follow him @ScottWalker.

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