Those of us who follow education reform have seen this scenario time and time again. Someone comes along who supports making parents the customer when it comes to deciding where kids can attend school and the opposition rallies as if it is time to fight World War III.
Perhaps this analogy is only slightly too extreme. The teachers’ unions will do or say just about anything to protect the power they have to maintain the status quo of an educational delivery system which treats every child the same no matter what their individual needs or desires. They proclaim load and clear that it is the bureaucracy that knows best how to teach young people and if parents try to buck the system their offspring will be relegated to classrooms with the lowest performing instructors where the trouble making pupils have been assigned.
Our family faced this scenario when our kids were growing up in Reston, Virginia, and although they are now adults it comes back to me only too clearly. We had an elementary school principal who went with fads. Our first grade daughter had phonics removed from the classroom to be replaced with the whole language approach. My wife had to teach her to read at home. Simultaneously, with our older daughter in fourth grade the school turned to a math textbook bent on raising the self-esteem of girls and minorities. When you looked inside there was almost no math present. We taught her the multiplication tables using flashcards.
Fortunately, those days are gone and for millions of people across this country school choice has resulted in parents being able to vote with their feet as to which educational institutions are best for their children. Here in the District of Columbia only 25 percent of scholars attend their neighborhood schools. Charters now educate 41,677 individuals representing 46 percent of all public education students. In addition, we are fortunate that there is another local option for our kids.
The Opportunity Scholarship Program provides private school scholarships for students living in poverty. The plan was approved during the George W. Bush Administration and due to union pressure President Obama has tried to close it throughout his term. It helps about 1,200 pupils a year but now with a new group, Serving our Children, running it the hope is to enroll thousands more. When the battle was being fought to get this life preserver for poor kids passed by Congress the effort was funded by Betsy DeVos along side Joseph E. Robert, Jr.
Ms. DeVos must be confirmed as the next Education Secretary of the United States.