On Thanksgiving, Be Thankful for Growing School Choice Movement

Thanksgiving Day Postcard. Photo by Flickr user Dave.

Editor’s Note: This guest post authored by Teresa Mull, education research fellow for The Heartland Institute.

Our education system is far from perfect. Every day, it seems, there emerges a new story about the horrors of Common Core, or an article outlining the misdeeds terrible teachers get away with because tenure and their unions protect them. But education in the United States is making strides every day, and while we shouldn’t lose sight of the work that has yet to be done, it’s important to remember and be grateful for the opportunities we do have.

The recent election is a testament to the fact our nation our nation is headed in the right direction. The American Federation for Children (AFC), a school choice advocacy group, invested in 121 individual races in 12 states in the general election. An astounding 89 percent of the candidates targeted by AFC were victorious. “These victories demonstrate the strong bipartisan support for school choice and the focus the electorate has on education,” AFC’s website says.

Families’ desires for alternatives to traditional public education are being heard and heeded. Challenges to school choice keep failing. In Nevada earlier this year, a judge upheld the country’s first universal (meaning all students in the state are eligible) education savings account program as constitutional. In Arizona, Oklahoma and elsewhere, courts have ruled in favor of school choice, declaring it a right that is in keeping with American values.

The election also heard the voice of the many people fed-up with a one-size-fit-all, federally mandated curriculum. “What has been under-reported is the victories that anti-Common Core candidates had at the state level,” Shane Vander Hart writes on his blog. Citizens are regaining control of education by electing candidates who will respect their wishes to make policy decisions at the local level.

Parents are no longer relying on their neighborhood government schools to educate their children. They see what’s going on in the classrooms and are taking a renewed interest and hands-on approach to teaching their children. The number of children being homeschooled in the United States has doubled since 1999. The homeschool cooperative movement is booming. 

Being dissatisfied with the status quo is not all that is driving education reform. School choice has the evidence to back it up. Research shows private school choice does not increase racial segregation, but actually promotes equality, and benefits poor and minority students the most. School choice makes parents and their children happy; they want options, and they’re more satisfied when they get them. Taxpayers are also happy, because school choice programs save money.   

National Review reports, “The school-choice movement is still gaining momentum nationwide.” And though limited, the school choice programs we do have have influenced the generation who experienced them: making Millennials “the school choice generation,” something we should be excited about and thankful for, indeed.

Teresa Mull (tmull@heartland.org) is a research fellow in education policy at The Heartland Institute.

[Also published on Freedom Pub, The Heartland Institute’s news and commentary blog]

Photo: Thanksgiving Day Postcard. Photo by Flickr user Dave.

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