Director of Education Reform
Choice should be the cornerstone of any education system.
Choice means giving parents the right to decide which educational option is best for their children, whether it be public schools, charter schools, private schools, online learning or homeschooling.
In other words, choice means recognizing that, when it comes to education, one size does not fit all.
A pretty uncontroversial idea, right?††
Why, then, does school choice draw the ire of public school teachers unions across the state?
Because it threatens their security.
It means public school teachers will have to compete to keep their jobs. As long as an education monopoly exists, these unions can rest easy knowing that it will take a lot Ė and by a lot, I mean a lot Ė to fire teachers even if they donít achieve positive results. In an education system where choice truly exists, teachers will have to work harder to convince parents to keep their children enrolled in their schools.
But the best thing about choice is that it works.
A 2010 study found that students enrolled in the Washington D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program had an average graduation rate that was 12 percentage points higher than students in traditional public schools.
A recent Illinois Policy Institute study found that charter schools held the top nine spots for 2012 ACT scores for open-enrollment, non-selective public high schools in Chicago.
Illinoisí neighbors to the north and east show that parents want a choice when it comes to deciding what education is best for their child. Voucher programs in Wisconsin and Indiana are more popular than ever. In fact, the voucher program that started in Milwaukee has now expanded to Racine, Wis., and Indiana is lifting the cap on its program to allow more students to enroll.
Choice also encourages innovation and efficiency. Companies like K12 and Rocketship Education are creating schools that utilize online learning in unique and interesting ways, such as allowing students to learn languages that they otherwise would not be able to study.
Teachers unions argue that allowing school choice drains significant resources from public schools. Nothing is further from the truth. A recent study shows that most vouchers provide the resources needed to cover fixed costs.
They also claim that allowing choice will cause a mass exodus from the public school system. If people choose to withdraw their children from the system, it is a sign that it is not working for them.
Instead of figuring out why we should adopt an education system with choice as its guiding principle, we should flip the question around and ask teachers union officials, such as Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis, why we should keep a system in place that has failed in almost every conceivable way during the past couple of decades.
Itís time to put control back in the hands of families and students.
That's why we're proud to participate in National School Choice Week.