States have an obligation to offer parents school choice during pandemic closures

By Kay James | The Daily Signal

Across America, as public schools are choosing to not reopen or to only provide a partial in-person experience this fall, families are struggling to figure out how to ensure their kids get a good education and don’t fall further behind.

The good news is, there has never been another time in America so ripe for school choice. Wouldn’t it make sense if parents could take a portion of the money that state and local governments spend to educate their children and use it to seek alternatives—like private or parochial school, online education, home schooling, co-ops, or other options?

Wikimedia Commons

If schools aren’t going to open this fall or plan on offering only an online or partial-classroom experience, the school choice model just makes good sense.

The fact of the matter is, taxpayer dollars spent on public education are meant for the education of students. As such, those dollars should actually fund students, not empty school buildings.

If schools don’t reopen this fall, states have an obligation to ensure children have access to other educational opportunities. On average, taxpayers pay $14,000 a year per child for K-12 public education. Allowing parents the option of taking a portion of that money and using it elsewhere is one significant step toward fulfilling that obligation.

School choice seems like an especially critical option as teachers unions across the country protest school reopenings.

Unions want schools to remain closed until their lists of demands are met, yet many of their conditions have absolutely nothing to do with ensuring the safety of children and teachers during the pandemic.

Demands include such things as forcing landlords and banks to cancel rent and mortgage payments for individuals, keeping private schools closed, and blocking vouchers for school choice.

One egregious example is in Los Angeles, where the LA teachers union, United Teachers Los Angeles, wants schools to remain closed until the federal government passes “Medicare for All,” police are defunded, charter schools that “compete” with the public schools are shut down, and more taxpayer funding is allocated to housing for California’s homeless, among other demands.

The stipulations are part of what the union calls its “groundbreaking research paper” that outlines necessary conditions for safely reopening schools.”

Speaking about its list of demands, UTLA’s president claimed, “We all want to physically open schools and be back with our students, but lives hang in the balance. Safety has to be the priority.”

Sure it does.

If safety is truly the priority, how does defunding the police ensure the safety of our kids? That just doesn’t pass the straight-face test.

Of course, defunding the police is not a necessary condition for safely reopening schools. Neither are many of the other demands. Instead, some teachers unions are shamelessly using schoolchildren and the reopening of schools as bargaining chips to push their unrelated social policy agenda. True school choice would mean that parents and students wouldn’t have to be held hostage by political demands.

In addition, any plan to reopen schools needs to be centered on teacher and student safety and providing children a quality education. Decisions must be made based on the science and a school district’s ability to consistently follow health and safety protocols, not on the political agendas of special-interest groups.

As a mom, former local school board member, board member of a state board of education, and someone who has worked in education policy for much of my career, I am intimately familiar with issues of school safety as well as the conditions necessary to provide a quality educational experience.

If schools aren’t going to open this fall or plan on offering only an online or partial-classroom experience, the school choice model just makes good sense.

School choice addresses many of the issues we’re facing during the coronavirus and provides better educational opportunities for every student—not just during the pandemic, but for generations of students to come.

As fall quickly approaches, states must work toward making school choice a reality so students don’t fall even further behind. Parents and students need options, and they need them now.

Images courtesy of Public domain and Wikimedia Commons
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6 thoughts on “States have an obligation to offer parents school choice during pandemic closures

  1. School choise? Absolutely, as long as charter schools and productive schools where there is accountability for performance are included. If this were to happen, NEA eat you heart out!!!

  2. States won’t have an obligation to offer School Choice until voters elect political representation that’s obliged to do so. And in Vermont, at least, with more than 40% of workers employed by schools, healthcare and government, electing obliged representation, be they in the executive branch, the legislature or local school boards, is a pipe dream. Not too long after progressive leftists win the election in November, the pandemic will whither and disappear because the political need for it will end, and we’ll be back to the same old same old.

    Don’t get me wrong. I’ve been saying for decades that School Choice is the greatest education governance since sliced bread. But it’s emphasis on individual responsibility is antithetic to the progressive socialism and government-controlled collective, that today permeates our society. After all, the education monopoly has been in control for a long time, and they’ve trained their legions accordingly.

    • Of course you are right on the money Jay.. what people don’t understand is that all this mess we are looking at is actually the results of us having lost control of the government.. this isn’t *the problem*, it’s the Fallout of the real problem- that we ain’t running the show as we are supposed to be.

      What we are trying to do right now is slap paint on a rotted house and we are wondering why it won’t stick.

  3. I would think that it would be the teachers themselves that are leaving the Plantation in droves.
    Teachers: we need you out here, but not your unions and your brainwashing curricula that has lead this country to the disaster we now find ourselves in. How would you call that a “Success?”
    Just look at the state of the state right now.
    Parents and taxpayers are all done..we’ve all had it with what you’ve been up too.

    • The flaw in Rand Paul’s logic is that “hundreds of thousands of children will receive a substandard education if we abandon in-person schools for another term”. The fact of the matter is that these children have been receiving a substandard education for decades, even with ‘in-person’ schooling. The pandemic has simply exposed the public school monopoly for what it is.

      What Dr. Paul is missing, and what 99% of the people out there don’t realize, is that a good education begins with the student’s desire to learn, not the school they attend. And as study after study has shown, it is the act of choosing one’s destiny (i.e. self-determination) that motivates most individuals.

      “Perhaps no single phenomenon reflects the positive potential of human nature as much as intrinsic motivation, the inherent tendency to seek out novelty and challenges, to extend and exercise one’s capacities, to explore, and to learn. Field studies have further shown that teachers who are autonomy supportive (in contrast to controlling) catalyze in their students greater intrinsic motivation, curiosity, and desire for challenge.”

      Conversely, “…the more students were externally regulated the less they showed interest, value, and effort toward achievement and the more they tended to disown responsibility for negative outcomes, blaming others such as the teacher.”

      If the pandemic has done anything, it has given society the opportunity to experience educational self-determination. But the door is open but a crack, and the hand of the election will likely slam it shut.

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