Why School Choice Will Continue to Grow in Popularity

National School Choice Week (NSCW), an annual event that celebrates education choice, has been smashing attendance records year after year. This year’s NSCW is “estimating about 6.7 million people to participate in a record-breaking 32,240 celebrations,” Watchdog.org reported recently. “The organization said there have been more than 58,000 events planned across the U.S. and around the world since 2011.”

Families embrace school choice for many reasons. Our nation is composed of millions of diverse children with various needs, interests, and abilities, and our government school system works about as well as giving all Americans an ibuprofen tablet and expecting it to cure maladies ranging from cancer to diabetes to athlete’s foot.

Not only is the one-size-fits-all approach ineffective at teaching students with unique learning methods, it’s also inherently prone to corruption and waste, which hurts you, the hard-working taxpayer. When an institution is handed funding (and lots of it) year after year, as is the case with public schools, it has no reason to strive for improvement or use the money prudently.

The Chicago Tribune reported this week, for instance, that “Chicago Public Schools employees ‘stole or misappropriated’ thousands of dollars worth of school-purchased gift cards that were intended to be used as incentives for students and families, according to an annual report from the district’s inspector general.

“In one case, a principal of a school for vulnerable students stole presents of at least ‘$500 in gift cards that were donated to the students and were intended to help address their specialized needs,’ Inspector General Nicholas Schuler’s office found,” reported the Tribune. “The same principal gave to an acquaintance 30 new backpacks filled with school supplies that had been donated, according to Schuler.”

Too many government school employees care too much about themselves and their own pocketbooks, and not enough about the children they’ve been hired to teach. Their self-interested attitudes are evident in the ever-decreasing academic achievements of U.S. students, who increasingly lag further behind their international peers.

Parents are fed up, and citizens are sick of seeing their tax dollars go toward funding a broken system employing greedy, incompetent bureaucrats. More people, as proven by the astounding growth of NSCW, are realizing that school choice works.

A 2016 EdChoice survey found, “A whopping 93 percent of parents who enroll their children in an Indiana private school through one of the state’s school choice programs were at least ‘somewhat satisfied’ with their private school, while 81 percent of school choice parents said they were ‘very satisfied.’”

The results are the same across the country, too. Families sign up on long waiting lists and make enormous sacrifices to have the chance to participate in school choice programs, because they know it provides opportunities the traditional government-run schools can’t.

Families shouldn’t have to back up their desire for education choice with data and research supporting them to gain access to educational freedom, but unfortunately, such is the political climate of the United States. The next time you hear an anti-choice advocate claiming ZIP-code mandated schools are the pinnacle of U.S. education, consider how idiotic (and awkward!) it would be if we expected everyone to get the same kind of haircut, wear the same style and brand of shoes or jeans, or drive the same car.

School choice will grow in popularity as government schools continue to fail to meet the unique needs of families as well as burden taxpayers. Families have spoken, and they will continue to make their demands for school choice heard, until their deafening cries for education freedom are too loud even for progressive politicians to ignore.

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

National School Choice Week (NSCW), an annual event that celebrates education choice, has been smashing attendance records year after year. This year’s NSCW is “estimating about 6.7 million people to participate in a record-breaking 32,240 celebrations,” Watchdog.org reported recently. “The organization said there have been more than 58,000 events planned across the U.S. and around the world since 2011.”

Families embrace school choice for many reasons. Our nation is composed of millions of diverse children with various needs, interests, and abilities, and our government school system works about as well as giving all Americans an ibuprofen tablet and expecting it to cure maladies ranging from cancer to diabetes to athlete’s foot.

Not only is the one-size-fits-all approach ineffective at teaching students with unique learning methods, it’s also inherently prone to corruption and waste, which hurts you, the hard-working taxpayer. When an institution is handed funding (and lots of it) year after year, as is the case with public schools, it has no reason to strive for improvement or use the money prudently.

The Chicago Tribune reported this week, for instance, that “Chicago Public Schools employees ‘stole or misappropriated’ thousands of dollars worth of school-purchased gift cards that were intended to be used as incentives for students and families, according to an annual report from the district’s inspector general.

“In one case, a principal of a school for vulnerable students stole presents of at least ‘$500 in gift cards that were donated to the students and were intended to help address their specialized needs,’ Inspector General Nicholas Schuler’s office found,” reported the Tribune. “The same principal gave to an acquaintance 30 new backpacks filled with school supplies that had been donated, according to Schuler.”

Too many government school employees care too much about themselves and their own pocketbooks, and not enough about the children they’ve been hired to teach. Their self-interested attitudes are evident in the ever-decreasing academic achievements of U.S. students, who increasingly lag further behind their international peers.

Parents are fed up, and citizens are sick of seeing their tax dollars go toward funding a broken system employing greedy, incompetent bureaucrats. More people, as proven by the astounding growth of NSCW, are realizing that school choice works.

A 2016 EdChoice survey found, “A whopping 93 percent of parents who enroll their children in an Indiana private school through one of the state’s school choice programs were at least ‘somewhat satisfied’ with their private school, while 81 percent of school choice parents said they were ‘very satisfied.’”

The results are the same across the country, too. Families sign up on long waiting lists and make enormous sacrifices to have the chance to participate in school choice programs, because they know it provides opportunities the traditional government-run schools can’t.

Families shouldn’t have to back up their desire for education choice with data and research supporting them to gain access to educational freedom, but unfortunately, such is the political climate of the United States. The next time you hear an anti-choice advocate claiming ZIP-code mandated schools are the pinnacle of U.S. education, consider how idiotic (and awkward!) it would be if we expected everyone to get the same kind of haircut, wear the same style and brand of shoes or jeans, or drive the same car.

School choice will grow in popularity as government schools continue to fail to meet the unique needs of families as well as burden taxpayers. Families have spoken, and they will continue to make their demands for school choice heard, until their deafening cries for education freedom are too loud even for progressive politicians to ignore.

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