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Thursday, February 02, 2006

School Choice: Saving America for our Children

This is part two of the series American Education: A Crisis Demanding Leadership.

Radical change will avert an educational crisis; the status quo and minimalistic reforms threaten the future of American exceptionalism. Unless our children begin to benefit from the $500 billion we spend on education, China, India, Japan, and Germany will overtake our progeny in innovation and economic security.

No one can argue the success of capitalism in quality and innovation. While they may argue about its effects on the environment or about how the non-ambitious are forgotten, capitalism surpasses socialism and communism in terms of quality and innovation. Right now, America’s primary and secondary educational systems mirror communism. Speech control of students, thought control of teachers, restricted religious expression, approved curriculum, dictated schools, poor quality, poor results are evidence of America’s greatest paradox: capitalists determine our economy, communists determine our schools.

School choice is a term used to describe a variety of alternatives to the edu-communistic system our children are currently forced to endure. Currently, politicians dictate which school your child attends; choice gives that control to parents. By tying funding to the child in a school choice environment, good schools are rewarded with more students while poor schools will be forced to close. The introduction of market forces into education will increase the quality and innovation that comes from our educational administrators.

The benefits to school choice are numerous, though only a few will discussed here. First, as mentioned above, quality and innovation increases in a capitalistic system. You don’t patronize a restaurant that is dirty, expensive, serves greasy food, has no bathroom, and where the servers are rude; a place like this would go out of business from a lack of customers. Instead, you choose quality, cleanliness, and friendly people. The same is true for your child’s education; you can choose which school your child attends based upon the standards that are important to you. Schools that compete, improve.

Secondly, establishing school choice is good because it increases transparency of schools. No longer will parents wonder if Big Apple Elementary is a quality school. That information will be provided in the pamphlet they send to parents attempting to lure students listing their safety record, quality, financial ledger, location, extra-curricular activities, and test performance. The degrees of the teachers and experience of their administrators will be the basis for which decisions are made. Transparency promotes quality.

Third, parents can choose schools that support the values taught at home. The atheist who seeks a secular “X-mas” and the Christian who seeks recognition of God in American history both can be satisfied as market forces birth schools with value niches. Parents, not politicians, should direct values.

Speaking of niches, if your child is an excellent musician you can choose a school based upon the quality of music program. Athlete? The quality of atheletic program. You, the parent, are empowered to make the decisions that are best for your child.

Another benefit is the diversity that comes through school choice. Currently, your neighborhood determines your education. If you live in Eliteville, you attend Eliteville High School. With school choice, all students are on a level playing field thus there is a greater chance of attending diverse schools than currently exists.

School choice promotes ownership. When parents and students are involved in choosing a school, no longer can they blame external forces for their lot in life. Instead, choosing to fail or succeed is a decision they choose. Ownership over decisions can inspire excellence in students and engage parents in the education of their children.

Finally, most people who are reading this have experience in college. Basically, school choice takes the market forces and strategies that have made American higher education the envy of the world and applies them to primary and secondary education. But, instead of grants being given based upon financial need, the same grant is given to every student regardless of need. Just like choosing college, the parents and students choose which school to attend.

Failing systems must be forced to change. School choice is a radical alternative to the failing communistic system our children currently endure. I am convinced that school choice is the only option remaining to save our children from failing schools and save the promise of American exceptionalism for our progeny.

Next, school choice comes in variety of forms. We will look at them and where they have been implemented. Keep salivating…there’s more to come.

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