Why school choice is right for America's children


Quality education is every child's right, not a privilege that only belongs to upper-class families. It has been almost 62 years since the U.S Supreme Court 1954 ruling in the Brown vs. Board of Education case, which abolished racial segregation in public schools because every child has the right to quality education under the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Although we have had great progress, the fight continues for quality education for all. A quality education may be the difference between a trajectory of a life of crime for a child or that child being a productive member of society. I know this from personal experience: I lived on the South Side of Chicago, where I attended a failing school. Fortunately, I was able to enroll in a magnet school. My teachers there took a sincere interest in my learning and exceeding expectations for my grade level. As a result, my scores and grades drastically improved, putting me on a path to test beyond my grade level in several areas.

Most students are not afforded this opportunity. City and state budgets often dictate the value of a quality education for a public school in the inner city. Most students who are impacted by this cannot afford simply moving to a better school district, nor can they afford private school education. They simply have no choice. However, school choice initiatives challenge the traditional public education system and allow students to have a choice. Milton Friedman, an American economist and "the father of the modern school choice movement," according to The Daily Signal, introduced the concept of school choice in 1955. School choice provides families with alternatives to public school education, including such options as scholarships, tax credits, vouchers and education savings accounts, or charter and magnet schools or home schooling. Through school choice, parents also have the ability to send their children to public schools that are not located within their neighborhoods. Between 2013 and 2014, over 308,000 children benefited from private school choice programs, according to American Federations for Children, a prominent organization promoting school choice. During that timeframe, 39 private school choice programs, 21 voucher programs and 16 scholarship tax credit programs were enacted. Such progress in education not only provides our children with a vast variety of educational choices, but also creates a competitive market and pushes public schools to consistently get better. If children are not forced to stay in their local public schools, then those public schools will strive to be at their best in order to attract more students.

Republicans strongly support school choice initiatives because it is the right thing to do. They understand the importance of a good education for every child and how it leads to better opportunities to fight poverty by best preparing children for a brighter future. It has been almost 62 years since the unanimous ruling of the U.S Supreme Court and 61 years since Milton Friedman introduced the concept of school choice, yet America's children still experience unequal educational opportunities. Education access is still a civil rights issue and must be resolved with school choice, allowing families to do what is best for America's children.

Caldwell is a federal lobbyist and Republican strategist with Caldwell Strategic Consulting. Follow him on Twitter @GiannoCaldwell.