By Krista Kafer (firstname.lastname@example.org) A man left the doctor’s office in disgust after the doctor suggested he exercise, lose weight, eat right, and quit smoking. The man wanted a simple prescription that would enable him to feel better. The doctor, however, said medication would have limited impact if the man refused to change his lifestyle. Refuse he did. In search of a diagnosis that agreed with his lifestyle, the man made an appointment with another doctor. Sound familiar? Education special interests perennially seek a cure-all—usually more money—to solve the public system’s malaise.
They dismiss advice to do the very things that will make the system healthy such as opening the system to competition and parental choice. Only school choice can establish a framework for innovation, specialization, and the replication of successful strategies. Much like a healthy lifestyle, it is the foundation that enables other interventions to work as intended.
Solutions like research-based reading programs, site-based management, Core Knowledge programs, parental involvement, alternative certification, on-line education, post-secondary connections, etc. are much more likely to succeed in a choice environment. In Colorado, for example, a strong charter school law and high parent demand has encouraged the opening of numerous Core Knowledge schools, additional elementary schools with phonics-based reading programs, on-line schools, several early college high schools, and the creation of alternative certification programs to meet the demand for new talent.
True, these types of reforms can exist without choice but they are more likely to where there is 1) demand, and 2) a system that enables reformers to create opportunities to meet the demand. Public school open enrolment, charter school laws, state-funded vouchers, and tax credits allow parents to choose (demand) and give entrepreneurial individuals the opportunity to meet the demand (supply) by opening new schools, adding additional seats at high achieving schools, replicating successful designs, and revamping existing schools.
It doesn’t take a degree in economics to see how this works. I recently offered one of many logical applications for it in connection with the "boy crisis in classrooms -- see a summary here and the full text here.
Yet the left-of-center Education Sector insists in a misguided critique of my paper that choice supporters “persist in claiming that choice is some kind of magical panacea for every educational problem imaginable demonstrate their unseriousness and raise false expectations for choice initiatives in a way that ultimately undermines their case.”
Choice is no panacea. There are no panaceas. It is, however the essential component of a healthy system and that which enables other strategies to flourish.
With that in mind, check out the new report by the Institute for Justice and the American Legislative Exchange Council that analyzes on a state-by-state basis the state constitutionality of voucher and tax credit programs (the US Supreme Court has ruled both consistent with the US Constitution). All but two states (MI and MA) have constitutions that allow vouchers and/or tax credits.
So what’s stopping us from injecting a dose of healthy parental choice into education? Misinformation spread by well funded unions, other special interests, and the politicians they own leads many astray. We need to get the word out that parental choice is beneficial, constitutional, and essential to our way of life. Truth is the antidote to lies.