Choice is the American way

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For too long, power-hungry bureaucrats and self-interested teachers unions have kept students shackled to failing government-run schools. They have done everything in their power to maintain a tight monopoly on K-12 education. During the pandemic, we saw just how detrimental this can be for students. That is why we need school choice now more than ever. 

The most important thing about the school choice movement is that it puts students first.

During the pandemic, union bosses trampled students underfoot in their rush to advance a progressive political agenda. For example, United Teachers Los Angeles used the pandemic as an opportunity to demand a moratorium on charter schools, the defunding of the police, and Medicare for All. Teachers unions in other major cities teamed up with the Democratic Socialists of America to demand a stop to evictions and an end to school choice programs. 

By insisting, for their own political gain, that schools could not safely reopen, these teachers unions ignored the scientific data that stated schools could reopen safely while simultaneously ignoring the detrimental consequences of virtual learning, including a massive mental health crisis.

At a recent Republican education roundtable, one concerned parent from Cook County shared that school closures have had a major impact on her children. “As far as virtual learning, I think it was really dystopian for our family,” she said. In an Education and Labor Subcommittee hearing, a father of a special needs child shared that his son felt so isolated from school closures that on his 9th birthday he asked, “Daddy, can I die for my birthday?” This heart-wrenching account of a child in real crisis shows just how harmful these school shutdowns have been to children.

We must not allow teachers unions to treat students like acceptable collateral damage. 

Millions of students will have to live with the effects of these school closures for years to come. We must hold these teachers unions and the education establishment that empowered them accountable. The best way to do that is to break their tyrannical hold on K-12 education.

The momentum towards educational freedom is being fueled by parents who are tired of being shut out of their child’s education. Throughout the last year, school boards, union bosses, and the Department of Education have attacked parental rights, even going so far as to liken concerned parents to domestic terrorists. This led to the formation of an FBI taskforce to track concerned parents. Democrat politicians have also spoken out against parental rights, claiming “we should protect children from their parents,” and parents are not the clients of public schools. If the education establishment is willing to treat parents like this, how much worse are they willing to treat students?

What the education elites are trying to hide is that parents are the best advocates for their children. Unlike teachers unions, parents don’t have hidden political agendas—they just want the best education available for their children. And they are waking up to the fact that they need more than one option.

And the education-industrial complex is shaking in its boots.

Choice is the biggest weapon we have against the education bureaucracy. In the very first Federalist Paper, Alexander Hamilton boasted that America was the first country to be built on “reflection and choice” instead of “accident and force.” We have a rich tradition in this country of letting the people govern themselves. Intrinsic in self-government is choice. Education is far too important to be left to either accident or force; we must let parents choose.

According to an EdChoice poll conducted in 2021, between 74-84 percent of parents support school-choice policies. No parent wants a sub-standard education for his or her child.

Charter schools, private schools, and home schools are less beholden to the education establishment or teachers unions. Without suffocating red tape or the baggage of special interest groups, these schools have the freedom to put students first. These schools recognize what many government-run schools have forgotten; education is about students. Teachers and administrators are important, invaluable even, but the students are the “why” behind schools. In their quest for power and control, teachers unions have neglected students. 

Parents know that when students are put first, they thrive. When schools have a student-first mentality, children aren’t barred from the classroom because of a disease that poses minimal risk to them, they aren’t held back to satisfy the left’s definition of equity, and standards aren’t changed so struggling students can fly under the radar. Instead, each student’s needs are addressed and met. 

The more choices parents are given, the better K-12 education will be. Our country was built on “reflection and choice;” it’s time our education system was as well.   

Foxx is ranking member of the House Education and Labor Committee.

Tags Charter school National School Choice Week School choice teachers union

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