One of the biggest ships in the armada of lies that is deployed against the right to choose schools is that it’s a “radical” or “extreme” position. It only takes a couple of moments of thought to realize that this is pure hogwash. In the areas of housing, transportation, food, clothing, and computers, we’re allowed to spend our own money on the goods or services of our choice. Only in education does the government preemptively
steal tax our money away and then force us to attend school based on where we live. (Why do you think people move to the suburbs?)
Even in higher education, we have the choice principle. A student can get financial aid to go to almost any college or university, public or private. Wouldn’t it be strange if the government told us that students from the upstate had to go to Clemson while those in the low country had to go to college of Charleston?
All that school choice proponents are asking for is a similar choice in K-12 education. Let parents choose schools based on their quality, character, discipline, achievement, etc.
Now there is a more hardcore position on this issue. There are some people who think that providing education is none of the government’s business. They believe that just as the government doesn’t run churches—because this would endorse one true religion and set off fights between Baptists, Methodists, Episcopalians, Catholics, etc.—the government also shouldn’t run schools (for similar reasons).
In a recent Boston Globe opinion piece, columnist Jeff Jacoby proposes “Separation of School and State.”
In a column originally appearing in the LA Times, Yale computer science professor David Gelerntner made a similar proposal a year and a half ago.
And there’s a whole organization devoted to the idea that the government should treat schools the same way it treats churches—hands off, no participation.
This position goes too far. It won’t recognize the significant gains that can accrue to society when quality public schools compete with independent alternatives in order to provide the best possible education for every child.
But that’s not the point of this post. The point is that giving parents and children real school choice—including public, independent, church-based, charter, and homeschooling options, among others—is the best possible option for school quality.
The right to choose is what has turned the United States from a small breakaway colony into the richest, strongest, freest society that the world has ever known—in less than two centuries.
Extending that right to choose to parents with kids in school isn’t an extreme position. Anyone who tells you otherwise is lying.