Despite rabid opposition from the education establishment across the nation, more states are realizing that restoring parents' freedom to choose how their child is educated is critical to guaranteeing the best education possible. In recent years Georgia, Florida, Arizona and Pennsylvania, to name a few, have passed various forms of education choice legislation. Even the District of Columbia has opened the doors of education freedom to parents. In Virginia, the birthplace of liberty in our nation, the idea of extending that freedom to parents of children in elementary and secondary schools is met with ferocious hostility by the education unions and, unfortunately, a majority of legislators. "Choice," it seems, is limited by too many only to abortion. While Virginia government provides direct assistance to families with children in pre-K programs or college, no such assistance is available for kids K-12. In fact, college TAG grants provide essentially the same type of education choice we need in K-12, so for the state to say the general model won't work is a little disingenuous.
We have long advocated for providing parents the freedom to choose the best education environment for their children. As we move through the 21st century, we remain in a 19th century education model — a "once size fits all" approach that fails too many children. Educrats simply offer to continue to pour more and more money into a system — notice their rhetoric is always about the "system" — instead of allowing parents to find the best environment for their children's particular needs.
Tuesday, we were pleased to join several other organizations in Virginia to announce the formation of School Choice Virginia, started by school choice advocate Delegate Chris Saxman (R-20, Staunton). The event garnered a lot of statewide attention (see our post and the news links here, as well as a new article, today, here.) This group will review the myriad of potential proposals and work to bring about real education freedom in Virginia through advocacy and education.
At the Richmond press conference announcing the group, former Washington, D.C., City Councilman Ken Chavous, an African-American Democrat, endorsed our efforts. Mr. Chavous has seen first hand the impact of giving families more opportunities to educate children in communities where far too many never even make it to graduation. He now is traveling the country, working with legislators and organizations, to bring education choice to all of our nation's families.
In his comments, Mr. Chavous made it clear that this is not a partisan issue — it became largely so, as so many others, when it became federalized. Rather, this is an issue of liberty and it's about what is best for our nations' children. We can no longer be held hostage by the education establishment.
Not only will education freedom help students struggling in poor performing schools, but it also will save taxpayers money. Study after study shows that when choice is introduced, enrollment in public schools decreases, but much of the money spent on the students that leave stays with the school. In essence, the schools have more money to spend per child. Though we know that money isn't the answer, this undermines opponents who claim that school choice will "take money from public schools." Nothing could be further from the truth. Not only that, but the new competition forces public schools to improve — and in many cases they do.
Frankly, school choice is coming to Virginia. It's coming whether the educrat establishment likes it or not. It may take some time, but as more and more states recognize the need for educational freedom, the only question that remains is whether Virginia will take the lead in granting families more liberty, or whether it will once again choose to fall further and further behind the rest of the nation in the area of freedom.