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February 2014 Policy Study, Number 14-1


Educational Freedom – For Your Child, My Child, All Children


Executive Summary



As a result of continuing lackluster performance by our young people on state, national, and international achievement tests, educational freedom initiatives continue to grow nationwide.  Legislation to give parents a greater voice in their child’s education has been widely proposed, and mostly passed, in states from California, to Florida, to Louisiana.


Results of these initiatives, many of which are only a few years old, remain contentious.  Do students in charter schools perform better than those in regular government schools?  Should students attending religious schools be able to use “government” money to pay their tuition?  What is the effect of homeschooling and on-line education?  Should inter- and intra-district open enrollment be expanded?  Should parents be able to have underperforming schools closed?  Will “choice” result in re-segregation and selective acceptance?


These and many other questions remain to be answered.  Many recent academic studies review the facts and offer differing opinions based on their underlying political philosophy.


What is known is that the achievement gap between white children and African-American and Hispanic children remains, even 60 years after Brown vs. Board of Education.  Many Asian children continue to out-perform all three groups.  Low-income children of all races continue to underperform compared to middle- and upper-middle-class children, even with a history of billions of dollars in funding for Head Start and expanded preschool programs. 


In addition, the United States spends significantly more than many other developed countries on government education, with worse results.  Almost one of every three students never graduates from high school.  Many of those who do graduate cannot read, write, or do math at or above the eighth grade level.  As a result, the wage gap or “income inequality” remains large between those working in minimum-wage and low-skill jobs and our nation’s highly educated and well-paid corporate executives and investment class.  In the meantime many good-paying, high-skill jobs go unfilled because there are not skilled workers available to fill them.


Importantly, Americans want everyone’s children – not just their own children or grandchildren – to succeed, to learn as much as they can, and to have the best job they can.  But our children are not leaving high school well-prepared.  As a result, educational inequality and educational under-achievement has been called the “civil rights” issue of our time by both conservative and liberal politicians.


So what is to be done?


It is important to understand that no educational system can guarantee the same results for every child.  Every person will not achieve educationally or socially at the same level, know the same things, and make the same income.  If this were the case, we would be a utopian society.  It is well documented that as much as some believe different results for different abilities and efforts are somehow “unfair,” socialist systems do not work.  Free-riders, centralized control, and a lack of rewards for effort always result in the failure of socialism.  The self-direction and self-responsibility of the capitalist economic system, supported by the structure of a representative democracy and rule of law, are what have enabled us to achieve the wealth and success of today. 


Yet most people believe every child is entitled to receive an education geared to their needs and that their parents believe is best for them.  The question is how should that education be provided and should it be a government-controlled monopoly?


This policy study will first review how Iowans and others think of educational choice, then address some of the reform initiatives occurring in other states and discuss the current choice options available to Iowa parents and children.  Then it will make suggestions as to future actions which can increase school choice in Iowa – allowing educational freedom for your child, my child, and all children.  




Click here for pdf copy of this Policy Study


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