By Teresa Mull
Last month, more than six million people across the nation rallied, danced, and wore colorful scarves at 21,000 events celebrating National School Choice Week.
President Donald Trump himself made a proclamation in recognition of the event, declaring, “Because the education of our young people is so important, the parents of every student in America should have a right to a meaningful choice about where their child goes to school.”
Meanwhile, teachers unions and their liberal allies had been voicing their opposition to Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos. In a letter sent to U.S. senators before her confirmation, some 300 state lawmakers, most of them Democrats, “argue that DeVos, who has no professional experience in education, is unqualified for the job and that the charter schools and voucher programs she has worked to create and expand have undermined public schools, which they see as critical civic institutions that serve the majority of students,” The Washington Post reported.
The Post’s choice to include the phrase “they see” in explaining the circumstance is telling. Judging from the record-breaking turnout during National School Choice Week and by the list of school choice legislation expanding at the state level each day, “they”—meaning the left-wing education establishment—are the only ones who do see government schools as “critical” and “[serving] the majority of students.”
At least that’s what they claim. Can the left possibly believe its own rhetoric at this point? Do liberals think government schools really are “critical”? Was no one educated before the Department of Education came along and told us what to do in schools? And do public schools actually serve the majority of students, or just the majority of union bosses, union members, and corrupt politicians, who together feed off the bloated education system like so many leeches?
Liberals know deep down their cherished government schools are no more “critical” than the U.S. Postal Service or so many other government agencies that, granted nearly unlimited budgets and sloppy oversight, slog along as inefficiently as they please, wasting the valuable time and money of the over-burdened taxpayer.
That’s why the left manufactures these elaborate narratives, painting anyone who dares to challenge the power of the teachers unions as a ruthless monster set on depriving old people of their hard-earned retirement money. It’s also why Betsy DeVos is depicted as a villain intent on making innocent children suffer.
It’s why they discount thousands of success stories of families who have benefited by school choice, like Sahara Aden, the daughter of poor immigrants who, thanks to a school choice program, was able to attend a private school her family couldn’t otherwise afford and is now studying electrical engineering at college. The left doesn’t care about thousands of people like Denisha Merriweather, who became the first person in her family to attend college, thanks to a tax-credit scholarship she credits with saving her from becoming a high-school dropout.
The left consistently disregards facts about how school choice helps desegregate communities, better satisfies parents and students, and saves taxpayers money. They purposefully ignore the pleas of millions of parents, students, teachers, lawmakers, and taxpayers who want something different, people who want some kind of say in how and where our country’s children are educated, because they know when they give everyone else a say, it’ll be something they don’t want to hear.
National School Choice Week proved there has been a dramatic shift in the mindset of the American people. We’re not buying what the left is selling on education. We are no longer content to sit back and let public schools mis-educate our children and send them off to college or the workforce ill-prepared, or to watch as the United States falls further and further behind other industrialized nations in academic achievement.
The discriminatory practice of forcing children to attend schools based on their address is coming to an end, and those who benefit most by public schools (hint: it’s not the kids!) are very, very afraid. That’s a good sign for the rest of us, who are ready to cut the cord and educate ourselves in a faster, better way: without the government training wheels.
Teresa Mull ([email protected]) is a research fellow in education policy at The Heartland Institute.