Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Why Education Choice Matters

It's National School Choice Week, an annual event with the stated goal to "raise public awareness of all types of education options for children. These options include traditional public schools, public charter schools, magnet schools, online learning, private schools, and homeschooling."

With over 21,000 school choice-related events planned in all 50 states, and over 2,100 homeschooling-specific events, this week highlights the great work of families, educators, and activists helping to expand education choice across the country.

This year's National School Choice Week comes at a particularly opportune time, as school choice advocate, Betsy DeVos, is likely to soon be confirmed as President Trump's Secretary of Education, and as data released last week by the outgoing Obama administration highlighted poor results of recent education policy. 

As reported by The Washington Post, the data released by the U.S. Department of Education two days before Obama's term ended show that despite funneling billions of federal dollars into failing schools through School Improvement Grants, there was no difference in test scores, graduation rates, or college enrollment between the schools that received the grants and those that did not. This education policy initiative, according to the Post article, was "the largest federal investment ever targeted to failing schools," sending $7 billion of taxpayer money into the program between 2010 and 2015.

The data are clear: traditional government schools are failing many children, particularly the poorest and most vulnerable. It is time for a different education policy approach that goes beyond pumping more money into an existing schooling infrastructure and instead empowers parents and educators to seek and invent new education options for young people. Let's shift accountability from government bureaucrats to parents and educators, and inject much-needed competition and innovation into American education. 

National School Choice Week highlights the many education options currently available to families, particularly families with privilege or luck. Choice should not be a freedom reserved only for the few; it should be a fundamental component of U.S. education policy. I have no doubt that families could have found far more effective and efficient ways of spending that $7 billion allocated for School Improvement Grants, and with far better results. It is time we give families that chance.

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