Both liberals and conservatives tend to equate the “school choice” movement, or the broader push to expand families’ educational options beyond traditional county-run public schools, with the political right. You are wrong.
If you look at the Center for Education Reform’s 2022 Parent Power Index, which ranks states by the extent to which they allow parents to control their children’s education, both the top two states in the ranking (Florida and Arizona) and the Die The last two states in the ranking (North Dakota and Nebraska) are generally considered to be conservative or conservative-leaning states.
Contrast this with the notion that the political right is firmly behind the election, while liberal bastions like Minnesota and the District of Columbia (both in the index’s top 10) oppose the election.
As we’ll show again next month when we announce the winner of the 2022 multi-million dollar Yass Award for Transforming Education, the most prestigious award in education before K12, those who embrace choice and opportunity come in all flavors and colors. There are new immigrants and family members who have called America home since colonial times. There are Democrats, Republicans, Progressives and Conservatives. There are no-nonsense public school leaders and there are dreamers, entrepreneurs and experimenters.
What they all have in common is the desire to see children succeed in school, even if in some cases this means redefining the term “school”. And to ensure learning happens, all have either made innovative changes to their existing educational programs or developed new approaches to learning.
In short, there is no ideology at play: just a desire to provide families with the widest possible range of educational opportunities for their children, so they can find one that works – because the current system is not working for many, as the recent national assessment of shows Educational progress test results reconfirmed.
The child’s address, income level, or level of education should not limit that family’s access to educational opportunities. Better schools happen when parents have power. Parents have power when states are open and transparent about their policies and provide parents with the necessary information, authority and means to exercise more control over their children’s education.
After the pandemic-related school closures, lockdowns, and other disruptions, parents, teachers, and students want more freedom and flexibility in education. During the pandemic, it became clear that children do best when the “system” is flexible, responsive to their individual needs, and providing them with educational options that help them thrive.
The NAEP reading and math tests, taken by nearly half a million fourth- and eighth-graders nationwide this year, proved that business as usual is a formula for failure.
Even US Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona described the test results as “terrifying” and “unacceptable”. As I wrote after the results were released on October 24, they are at least evidence of “academic malnutrition,” if not wrongdoing.
Parents demand change and they have every right to do so. The Parent Power Index, which we’ve published annually since 1999, ranks states based on a number of factors that measure how much parents in each state have the authority to make critical decisions that affect their children’s education.
The parents are fed up. They see their states and localities spending record amounts — more than $20,000 per student per year in many districts — and they don’t see results to match. Not when two-thirds of fourth and eighth graders can’t read well, NAEP tests have shown.
Parents shouldn’t have to accept such horrific results. And political leaders must strengthen them. That’s what parent power! Index and the Yass Awards competition is about exploring the many ways children can get an education alongside the traditionally run schools (microschools, online, on-site, education savings accounts, scholarship programs, project-based and more), and will showcase education providers who provide it get it right.
The cooperation of the parents is of course important. More studies than I can count have shown that parents who read to their preschoolers regularly have children who are successful readers. But the commitment doesn’t end when the kids go to school.
Indeed, this is when parental power begins; when parents can choose the school their child will attend, regardless of their income level and zip code.