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February 2014 Policy Study, Number 14-1


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





According to the studies in Getting Choice Right, Ensuring Equity and Efficiency in Education Policy, most of the opposition to educational freedom or school-choice initiatives are based on the fear that allowing parents to decide what is best for their child will result in “re-segregation” of “disadvantaged” or “minority” children as upper-income parents make unfair use of these options and remove their children from government schools. 


What these opponents do not understand is that home purchasing power and personal mobility because of income have already produced this result.  A parent with financial resources and job mobility does not buy a home in a bad school district or in a bad attendance zone in the first place.  Those who want to live in a better district, with more options for their child, already do so.  They are in many cases already investing the financial resources for those important “extras” which they believe their children need to succeed and which they want them to have.  Further, if a private-school education is a priority for the family and they can determine how to afford it, they have already left the government system. 


Parents, especially minority and low-income parents are realizing that 50 years after Brown vs. Board of Education, it has not worked.  The achievement gap between minority and low-income children and higher-income, generally white and Asian children remains and has grown – even after the expenditure of hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars. 


New math hasn’t worked.  Whole reading, instead of phonics, has been a failure.  Social promotion does not lead to later success, only disappointment and discouragement.  Reducing class sizes has had little noticeable impact, but millions of dollars in costs.  Head-start and preschool provide some benefits, but they disappear by the third grade.  The common core and “race to the top” initiatives are mired in top-down bureaucratic over-regulation and control.


So what do we do?


Maybe what we should do is listen.  Listen to parents, listen to children.  The parents know what works for their child.  After all, they have taught them to roll-over, sit up, talk, walk, potty, and feed themselves.  The parents know their children best.  And even low-income, poorly educated parents know what a bad school and a bad education looks like – they most of all know this – because they have and are suffering from its effects.  They also recognize what a good school and a good education looks like.  They know if their child is happy and learning, or frustrated and discouraged. 


Unfortunately, most low-income and many minority parents do not have the freedom, the opportunity, to change their child’s situation – to make a different decision.  They are severely limited by their situation, and they know it. 


If we are serious about improving “income inequality” and “opportunity for all,” then we must provide every opportunity for education freedom for all children.  Educational freedom is the civil rights issue of our time, for your child, my child, and all children.


Now we must make our Legislators and Governor understand.  We must encourage them to act.




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