Does “School Choice” Get a “Pass” or “Fail”?

September 12, 2023

Kids are back in school, and debates about our education system are front and center again. Between what can/can’t be taught and what can/can’t be read, schools are akin to a war zone. But with bake sales.

One of the biggest issues is over “school choice.” The idea is to give parents more options versus a standard public education. It would allow them to send their kid to a private school, charter school, parochial school, or do home schooling, using some of the money normally allotted to their local school district.

It’s not a new idea, with roots going back to the 1950s. Currently, 32 states and the District of Columbia offer various forms of a school choice program; the last two years alone have seen an explosion in the drive for these options. But wither the old-fashioned public school, the kind with lockers that stick and lunch ladies dishing out meatloaf?

Free, public education is at the heart of our history, starting as far back as 1635 with the Boston Latin School, the nation’s first public school. In 1867, a formal Department of Education was added to the Cabinet by President Andrew Johnson.

At the heart of the school choice debate is the funneling of taxpayer money to pay for these options, i.e., “vouchers.” What that does is drain public school funds, driving them to institutions such as a fancy private school already raking in hefty tuition fees. Two of the most expensive private schools in America have annual tuitions ranging from $70-75K per year. Clearly, a voucher will not fully pay for a school like that, leaving some kids and their families in the red.

School choice doesn’t sufficiently address kids who live in remote or rural areas where options for alternate schooling are limited (or non-existent), or where transportation is difficult. If all they have is their local public school, and that school is being drained of resources, what kind of education will that child get?

Some opponents also argue that public funds going to religious schools violates the Constitutional separation of church and state. And sadly, because they are “private,” some schools are free to discriminate against kids who may be LGBTQ or of a different faith. Public schools, on the other hand, are required to teach all kids.

Look, there’s a good argument to be had about making continual improvements to our public education system. As a society, we want to make sure that our kids are getting the very best learning experience that they can receive, no matter where they live or what their economic status may be. It’s in our best interest.

However, the practice of making education institutions fight for taxpayer money gets a failing grade.

How do you feel about your local school(s)? Do you feel kids in your community are getting a solid education? What do you think about the issue of school choice? Sound off in our Community Soapbox!

Cindy Grogan is a writer, lover of history and "Star Trek" (TOS), and hardcore politics junkie. There was that one time she campaigned for Gerald Ford (yikes), but ever since, she's been devoted to Democratic and progressive policies.

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Antigrav1117 on Jun 16, 2023 11:43 AM
DOE has become less an instrument of advancing education and more a political tool. If it cannot be reoriented to remove political bias- it must be eliminated. It's too well placed to for parents to allow it to be an instrument of… See Comments
JRB18 on Oct 24, 2022 2:30 AM
Election day is two weeks away! Let's make sure we reach out to friends and family to get out the vote, critical races this year both at the national AND local levels. See Comments
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