A plan to empower parents, increase education options as an uncertain school year looms
While I’m a big supporter of home schools, many single parents who work aren’t able to teach their kids at home. Even some parents with advanced educational degrees simply don’t want to teach their kids at home or believe their kids will listen more consistently to someone outside of the family. Some families are dysfunctional because of poverty or mental illness or lack of education and are not prepared to teach their kids at home. For some children, their best chance of witnessing a functional, civilized situation is at school.
In short, hundreds of thousands of children will receive a substandard education if we abandon in-person schools for another term.
If the government schools decide not to meet in person in the fall, I think every parent should have the right to take their tax dollars to the school of their choice.
Currently, federal education dollars are divided up between school districts. This week, I introduced legislation (the Support Children Having Open Opportunities for Learning [SCHOOL] Act), which I will also propose as an amendment to the next COVID bailout bill, to let the dollars follow the student to whatever school their parents choose.
The choices would include homeschool, the local public school or another public school that has in-person classes, or a private or parochial school.
It’s hard to imagine why anyone would oppose letting parents decide the school of their choice.
Imagine if the government ran grocery stores the way they run our schools. You don’t pay for your groceries; you pay a tax, and the government sends it to the store closest to your home. You don’t get to decide which store or what you want. You show up, and they give you a bag of groceries — doesn’t matter what you need or want. There would be a grocery board to decide what they stocked, and a grocery superintendent would hire and fire everyone there, regardless of what the customers thought.
What do you think the quality of your food and store would be? Seems pretty obvious to most people, yet that is how we run elementary and secondary education in this country and have for many years. It’s produced some pretty bad results, but what it’s also producing now is an unworkable situation for too many people.
The COVID situation cries out for a better solution.
My legislation would allow certain federal education dollars to follow the student, with the parents deciding which school their children attend, not the school system.
School choice also allows low-income and disadvantaged students who live in crime-ridden neighborhoods to escape their decaying schools and go to high-performing schools capable of meeting their needs and changing their futures.
My legislation takes certain funds appropriated for students under current law through the Elementary and Secondary Education Act and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act and allows them to follow the child to the school of their choice, whether the school is learning in person or remotely. It allows the parents and students to choose between public school, charter school, private school, and home school.
It would allow these funds to be used for direct tuition payments, curriculum materials, technological materials, tutoring, or education classes outside the home. It would also pay for support for special education needs.
Finally, my legislation ensures that students choosing any of the above options for schooling could still benefit from a federally funded school food program.
Parents and students are having a hard time right now. There is much uncertainty and confusion. While we might normally be school shopping right now, instead we are waiting for the latest update as to when — or IF — our schools might reopen, what they might look like if they did, and how much turmoil this next school year may bring to our children’s lives.
There is a better way, and I’m proposing we take a giant step in that direction. Empower parents. Help students. Support their choices and needs.
As we seek relief from the dangers and troubles of COVID, let’s not forget our kids, and let’s not abandon parents to a one-size-fits-all government monopoly.
Rand Paul is the junior senator from Kentucky.
Copyright 2023 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.