Imagine if today–in 2013–a group of politicians pulled a George Wallace and stood in a doorway blocking certain students from entering a schoolhouse due to their race and/or societal class.
The outcry against such an act would be heard sea to shining sea with shouts of condemnation so loud they would make an 80s rock concert sound like a harpsichord recital. The politicians behind it would be excoriated and forced out of public life forever–and rightfully so.
Thankfully the bad old days of racial segregation in public schools are long gone, and students of any race, religion and background have full access to public schools.
However, access to the schoolhouse building does not guarantee access to education–that is, the kind of education students need to at the very least be able to provide for themselves and their families as they enter adulthood.
It is no secret that many of our nation’s schools are failing their students. The statistics speak for themselves. But a closer look at those figures, as well as basic observation reveals that those suffering the most are pretty much the same who were denied entry to the schoolhouse in the 1960s.
Many would point the finger at income inequality, nuclear family disintegration, prejudicial barriers, historical hardships, or a combination thereof. I mean, what else could explain that public schools in more affluent white areas outperform their counterparts in minority, less affluent areas and inner cities, especially when in most cases, they receive similar levels of funding from government?
However, asserting those are the reasons for overall education inequality essentially lays the blame on the students and their circumstances rather than on the schools and their administrators and teachers.
School choice has, in my view successfully challenged this axiom, and placed the onus where it belongs: on the schools (and those who operate them).
For years I have been a school choice proponent because I believe that competition among schools and school systems increases quality and efficiency just as it does in the free market.
A few jobs ago, I was the legislative aide to the Florida State Representative that sponsored and shepherded several of Former Governor Jeb Bush’s education reforms through the Florida House of Representatives. In that capacity, I learned a great deal about school choice and the quantifiable gains students make through it. But it never really impacted me on a personal level until last month. Continue reading