School Choice is easy for some. Americans with the financial means are able to send their children to the best schools available and reside in neighborhoods that offer successful public school education. All too often, the very worst schools in America are located in impoverished areas where parents have no choice but to send their children to failing schools.
Politicians, who hold the power to change our educational system in America, are exempted from the catastrophe that they foist on US citizens. They frequently possess the means or connections needed to send their own children to the very best, successful schools. Recently, Rahm Emanuel, Chicago’s new mayor, was asked in an interview where he planned to send his own children to school. His abrupt change in demeanor illustrated his indignation and intolerance for such a pointed question. The mayor stormed out of the interview as if his personal rights somehow had been violated. Predictably, his children will attend the elite private University of Chicago Laboratory School in Hyde Park just as President Obama’s daughters did.
(Rahm Emanuel interview)
While Rahm Emanuel may escape close scrutiny over his misplaced outrage, Gov. Chris Christie has not been so conveniently overlooked. He, likewise, reacted angrily to inquiry about where he planned to send his children to school with a curt “None of your business!” He did go on to explain that he values parochial education and is concerned about the educational needs of all students in New Jersey. Additionally, Christie emphasized that he pays $38,ooo in property taxes that primarily fund public schools.
When the newly elected President moved to Washington D.C., he and his wife CHOSE Sidwell Friends School over D.C.’s notoriously failing schools. His daughters will receive the same privileged education that also benefitted Chelsea Clinton and Amy Carter before them. The Obama family’s statement to the public was simply that
In the end, the Obamas selected the school that was the best fit for what their daughters need right now.
The reality is that, in the end, Barack and Michelle exercised their privileged status that allows them as parents the freedom of school choice. However, school choice is denied most Americans who must attend the school that is forcibly mandated based on a zip code.
School choice includes public charter schools and voucher or scholarship programs. These innovative approaches to education vary from state to state since education is primarily the function of individual states.
Rahm Emanuel and the Obama administration led the charge against school choice in Washington D.C. when Congress sponsored the SOAR Act that reauthorized the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program, which provided school choice scholarships for a small number of children from low-income families. D.C. public schools are ranked 51st in the nation. The results of this scholarship program have been outstanding, as highlighted in the highly awarded documentary, “Waiting for Superman.”
In the Wall Street Journal article, “The Evidence is in: School Vouchers Work”, the following key points were made:
In a study published last year, Patrick Wolf of the University of Arkansas found that voucher recipients had graduation rates of 91%. That’s significantly higher than the D.C. public school average (56%)
A recent study of Milwaukee’s older and larger voucher program found that 94% of students who stayed in the program throughout high school graduated, versus just 75% of students in Milwaukee’s traditional public schools. And contrary to the claim that vouchers hurt public schools, the report found that students at Milwaukee public schools “are performing at somewhat higher levels as a result of competitive pressure from the school voucher program.” Thus can vouchers benefit even the children that don’t receive them.
Empirical data obtained in states that expand school choice options for parents consistently indicate positive results.
Rahm Emanuel’s response to the reporter who dared ask the mayor about his choice for educating his own children is an appropriate defense for the desperate necessity of granting ALL parents the right of School Choice and Educational Freedom despite their economic status:
No, no, no- you have to understand- I’m making this decision as a father. And that’s a decision we’re gonna make, and anything less than that, would be less than how I think of myself and wanna be as a father.
Dear Mayor, every American deserves this same privilege of making a decision on school choice- and nothing less.
(For more information on School Choice, please see my earlier post “School Choice: Vouchers to Charter Schools”, linked here.)