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Jan 29, 2014 — by: Dennis Linthicum
Categories: Culture

LogoThis is National School Choice Week, and I am thrilled to support the efforts of so many brave educators, teachers, lawmakers and parents who are standing up for kids, and the choices of parents and communities to pick what’s right for their families.

School choice is close to my heart, because Diane and I chose to home-school our two children, and were blessed to see our kids not only succeed in academics but excel out in the real world. Living on a ranch 36 miles from town would have meant multiple hours in a school bus every day for our kids, not to mention the countless wasted hours that a public school teacher must spend on discipline, and the lowest-common-denominator approach that so many schools are forced to take, even with well-adjusted, bright students.

So, we decided that our kids would be better served by more freedom, and the choice of home-schooling. By the time our children were in 8th grade, they tested out of High School on their SATs, and they reveled in the freedom to pursue their interests and take on entrepreneurial endeavors in junior high and high school. Children are gifts to us, their parents, and there is nothing that brings me more joy than watching my son build custom furniture using skills I passed on to him, or my daughter enjoying classic literature because my wife and I nurtured that love of English and let her experience the classics at a young age.

Because of my experience with our family, and the way that I see parents fighting for their children’s education every day, I fully support school choice. This doesn’t mean that I think everyone should do what Diane and I did, but that parents should have the freedom to choose the best option for their family and circumstances: whether that is private school, public school, charter school or home-schooling.

I think that parents and communities are the best advocates for children, and they know best how to motivate, teach and inspire their students. Centrally planned and mandated curriculums cannot account for the learning styles, unique capabilities and diverse backgrounds of children across America, and nor should it.

Through the wasteful spending of the Federal education system, the poorly written curriculum of Common Core and the deadly grip of unions in public schools, our kids are being left behind the rest of the world, and an entire generation of students are sentenced to duller futures because we are not giving them the choice to succeed.

For example, the 2012 Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) found that: “While the U.S. doesn’t break the top ten on any academic subject, it ranks fifth in educational expenditures at a whopping $115,000 per student. Only Austria, Luxembourg, Norway, and Switzerland spend more. Countries that outperform the United States spend drastically less.” as cited in this Americans for Prosperity article: http://americansforprosperity.org/legislativealerts/what-pisa-tells-us-about-american-education-reform

As the Federation for Children points out:

  • An estimated 1.1 million students failed to graduate with a diploma in 2011. That is 6,000 dropouts a day or one dropout every 29 seconds.  
  • Nearly half (48 percent) of public schools across the country are labeled as failing, and they serve a disproportionate number of minority students.
  • Only 24 percent of eighth and 12th grade students have solid writing skills. Students who qualify for the federal free and reduced-price lunch program scored 27 points below students from families with higher incomes.
  • The national achievement gap between lower- and higher-income students is 27 points.
  • Students who drop out of school are twice as likely to end up in poverty.

Stats found here: http://federationforchildren.org/why-school-choice

This is a crisis of epic proportions, but opponents of school choice would have us believe that the status quo is “just fine”. Do those numbers seem “just fine” to you? How would you use $115,000 to educate your child, if given the choice?

It must be noted that, although there are certainly a few bad apples, teachers and principals are not the problem - the bureaucracy surrounding public schooling is. We are so worried about the protection of teachers and the satisfaction of the teacher’s union that we are failing our kids on a grand scale. More and more parents and students are begging for school choice and a chance to home-school, attend a private or charter school, or force change in their public schools, but comfortable education professionals and the entrenched status quo are stifling this movement.

We should be risking everything to make our kids’ dreams come true, not holding them back to meet our desires. So I think it’s time to remove the stigma from School Choice and let parents, communities and educators have a say once again.

Every child should have access to quality education, and schools should have to compete for educational dollars, not stifle dissent and punish parents who are simply looking out for their families.

Religious education, learning disabilities or low-income neighborhoods are just a few of the issues that school choice can help solve, so join with me this week, and let’s Amplify Choice - giving every child a hope of a bright future and the kind of healthy, intellectually stimulating education that my kids were blessed to experience.

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