PEFNC intern Anna Sheehy has a new op-ed published in the Duke Chronicle. Anna takes a look at how our state and nation’s educational system is faring, and as a result of low test scores and overall improvement, offers up parental school choice as an option for families. Education is an important and much-discussed issue this election season, and this piece asks college students to think about what kind of future they want when heading to the ballot box. Read Anna’s full piece below and leave us a comment or question! Or view the article online here.
Education is a hot button issue this election season with many thoughts circulating on how to create the most effective educational system. We know that every child deserves the chance to have a great education—regardless of where they live or their parents’ income. And we know that improving our country’s educational system is a vital step toward ensuring long-term global competitiveness. It will be impossible for America to remain at the forefront of innovation and competition without public and private schools that sufficiently prepare children to enter a global work environment. It will be up to the next governor to ensure that our schools are on the right path to prepare students. With this in mind, it is critical to take a closer look at what school choice has to offer families and each candidate’s position.
American public schools currently spend an average of $120,000 on a single child’s education from kindergarten through high school, and the U.S. spends more than $500 billion in a single year to educate kids ages 5 through 18. Accounting for the entire education sector, including college and mid-career training, education represents 9 percent of U.S. gross domestic product. This is more than either of the country’s energy or technology sectors. This level of education spending has made the United States one of the leaders in education spending globally, but these spending levels have not translated to better student performance. The most recent Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) Programme for International Student Assessment report found that among 34 OECD countries, 15-year old American students rank 14th in reading skills, 17th in science and 25th in math. Most alarming, however, is that only eight countries have lower graduation rates than the United States. These statistics clearly show that something is not quite working in our educational system. Therefore, looking at expanding educational opportunities through parental school-choice initiatives is important to providing a quality education system for our children.
Parental school choice, in its broadest sense, means giving parents the ability to send their children to the school of their choice. This can be a traditional public school, private school, home school or public charter school. School choice gives families educational freedom to choose any school that meets their needs regardless of race, income, religion or location.
The current American educational system, however, dictates which public school students attend based almost solely on location. Demography should not be destiny. The current system fails to consider the vitality and quality of the school and the specific needs of individual families and students. If a family cannot afford to choose a different school, a student’s educational fate is relegated to their position on a map. Parental school choice allows parents to choose where their children attend school, regardless of their ability to pay.
Momentum behind such ideas is catching on. A Wall Street Journal editorial declared 2011 the “year of school choice,” as 13 states enacted or expanded school choice options last year. That year, North Carolina completely lifted the cap, previously set at 100, on the number of public charter schools that are allowed to operate in the state. North Carolina also enacted its first private school choice program by allowing parents with special needs children to receive up to $6,000 per year to send their children to private schools. Ten thousand families in North Carolina will benefit from these legislative changes.
Education will always remain one of the most important issues to voters, as it is vital to our nation’s success now and in the future. Our current educational system is not working—costs are rising and results are falling. Something needs to change to ensure a strong and secure future. School choice offers a way to give every family educational freedom, and it also provides methods to help raise the performance of each student and our educational system. This November, you will face many choices when voting for candidates—remember to think about education and its direct importance to America’s collective future. Think about what kind of future you want and what kind of educational system will get us there when casting your vote.