While the dominating headlines have been about Barack Obama's State of the Union address, I would be remiss if this week should pass without acknowledging the fact that it is National School Choice Week.
In my mind, education is one of the five big issues that conservatives should rally behind, along with energy, securing our borders, a healthcare alternative and the Penny Plan to get government spending under control. This is why education is a part of my Conservative Solutions Caucus, which you can read here.
Luckily there are some conservatives in Washington who agree. Senators Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz are focusing on education. But this isn't just about improving government schools, which have held a failed monolopy over education for decades, but about improving access and choice for parents and students. Charter schools, voucher programs, and homeschooling are all options that could compete with what's become “traditional education” in your zip code-assigned government school.
Ted Cruz says, “School choice is the civil rights issue of the 21st century.” He's right because with a quality education comes greater opportunities. It is a key factor to staying out of poverty, along with keeping a job and waiting to have children until after marriage.
As of right now, America's government education system is failing our students. While we spend $12,000 per student per year, we are declining in terms of academic achievement when compared to countries worldwide. The approach we've taken over the last few decades of increased government spending and more government involvement in education hasn't resulted in greater educational achievement. So why do we continue to do what we are doing? Because we are dumb and we've lacked the leadership to challenge the status quo.
Studies have shown that school choice does, in fact, lead to greater academic achievement. Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush has a piece in National Review on this issue, citing success stories of charter schools, voucher programs, and scholarships throughout our nation.
The Heritage Foundation conducted research into how school choice provides access and options to quality education. They found that school choice:
- Leads to improved academic outcomes;
- Significantly increases graduation rates;
- Increases student safety;
- Improves parental satisfaction with their child’s academic and social development and satisfaction with their child’s school overall;
- Introduces competitive pressure on the public education system that lifts all boats, improving outcomes for students who exercise school choice as well as students who remain in public schools; and most importantly,
- Allows parents to access educational options that meet their child’s unique learning needs.
On a personal level, we care about our children and want nothing more than to see them succeed. A quality education (which children aren't currently getting) is a key factor in helping them achieve greater success.
On a national level, it is important that we have a thriving education system that ranks among the best in the world. Our future depends on our ability to compete with rising nations like China.
It would be an absolute travesty to merely settle for the current level of academic achievement. We are better than that and our children deserve better. Unleashing the power of competition within our education system will only raise the level of quality, as it does with any other product or service that exists within a truly freemarket society.