Unhappy about your child’s education? Give yourself a choice.
BY JUSTIN OWEN
There has been growing frustration among parents over the past school year, and not just here in Tennessee. Look no further than to our neighbors in Virginia and their recent election results for proof, driven largely by how school districts have handled education this year. Whether parents’ anger stems from the debates around school closures and mandatory virtual schooling, mask mandates, critical race theory, or all of the above, parents are rightly concerned that their voice doesn’t really matter. Virginia gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe now famously told parents to butt out of their kids’ education. And he lost a race that should have been his to win as a result.
In response to parents’ refusal to sit down and shut up, legislatures across the country—including right here in Tennessee—are passing laws banning critical race theory and mask mandates. Yet, nothing is really changing. School districts are either outright flouting these new laws, or they are actively seeking to overturn them in the courts. Perhaps it’s time to stop telling them no and instead make them pay where it hurts the most: their bank accounts.
The best way to give parents a seat at the table and a say in how and what their kids are being taught is through parental choice, letting them take their kids out of their schools and take the money with them. With robust options like education savings accounts, charter schools, and online learning, parents can finally reclaim control of their child’s education. Happy with your zoned public school’s curriculum or mask mandate? That’s great; you can keep your child there. But if you’re one of the frustrated parents that feels like you have no voice, you should be able to take your child to the school of your choosing.
It should come as no surprise that alongside the groundswell of parental opposition to what’s going on in our schools, support for parental choice is at an all-time high. Three-in-four voters support school choice, while just 16% oppose it. This isn’t a partisan issue either. Just like Democratic voters played a critical role in the outcome of the Virginia election, 70% of Democrats now agree that parents should have a choice when it comes to their kids’ education.
While state lawmakers are certainly paying attention to what parents are saying by passing laws that limit what public school districts are doing these days, the reality is that districts will always find a way around the new laws just like they did the old laws. If the General Assembly really wants to put parents back in the driver’s seat, they need to expand parental choice and allow parents to vote with their feet when it comes to educating their children. That’s when the real change will occur.