Choice in Education Means Everyone Wins: Let Your Voice Be Heard


February 2, 2016 10:01AM

Next week, the Tennessee General Assembly’s House of Representatives will take a groundbreaking vote on the future of education in the Volunteer State. For almost half a decade, parents have been calling upon the legislature to return the choice of mapping their children’s education to their dining room tables. Our current system that allows a government ZIP code to determine a child’s education opportunities has had the unintended consequence of segregation, and it has trapped those from poor socio-economic backgrounds in failing public schools with a lack of opportunities. Finally, families can see a light at the end of the long tunnel: the Senate passed an opportunity scholarship proposal last year giving low-income students in the bottom 5 percent of performing schools a chance to attend another school that better suits their needs. All that’s standing between these children and a better education is a vote on Monday evening in the House chamber.

The debate over this issue has been contentious, with school board associations and teachers unions largely crowding out the space for public dialogue with incendiary and misguided claims about the impact that choice can make on a child’s life. Unfortunately for thousands of families across our state, they seem to have forgotten that public education’s first responsibility isn’t towards the preservation of special interests, but rather towards the fostering of better tomorrows for students regardless of their race or economic status.

So let’s set the record straight with some facts. School choice has been an educational reform in practice since the 1990’s, giving us an opportunity to see the true impact it has made on those communities and students- both those that take an opportunity scholarship as well as those who remain in their public schools. Here is what you’ll find:

Nationally, there are over 300,000 students enrolled in some form of educational choice programs. But do you see the public school systems in the states that offer school choice failing at the hands of these successful programs? Of course not. Instead, you see parents and teachers working together to determine what academic programs best suit each child, while those remaining in the public schools enjoy the same per-pupil resources as before. In short, the sky has not fallen. Rather, we’ve seen quite the opposite. The sky has become the limit for thousands of children nationwide who otherwise had no access to the education necessary for them to succeed.

Monday evening,  lawmakers will decide if Tennessee children can join the ranks of these hopeful thousands across the country. Will you contact them and let your voice be heard?