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COTE: School choice or the school’s choice

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Jason Cote, The Saint James Leader Journal

Rarely has an idea been as blatantly partisan as the concept of school choice. In many towns the only choice is the local public school but for many in larger areas choices can include public schools, private schools, and charter schools.

In many cases rural and suburban schools are generally very good while many urban schools are failing. For the most part, students are tied to the schools in their district, but the concept behind school choice is giving parents the option to choose a better school than the one where they’re assigned. In general, Republicans and Libertarians support this and Democrats do not.

It’s in school choice where the left’s concern for minorities is exposed as a fraud. Many liberals cry racism when this topic is approached, and accuse proponents of stealing money from minorities, but the facts tell a different story. Take Missouri for example. There are 2,439 public schools in the state and minorities make up approximately 25% enrollment. There are 588 private schools that enroll approximately 23% minority students. Of the charter schools, however, there are 61 and minorities make up approximately 89% of the student body. Therefore, the success of charter schools directly affect minorities the most.

Many times, charter schools give low income children their only shot at a decent education. Recently, however, New York Mayor Bill DeBlasio announced that he is eliminating $210 million in funding set aside for charter schools. He said that charter schools have a “destructive impact” on traditional schools. According to Jeanne Allen of the Center for Education Reform, however, roughly 11% of public schools have been designated as failing and many of them remain open from year to year. Only approximately 8% of charter schools fail and most are immediately closed. The fact that when charter schools fail they are regularly closed, but public schools are not, shows just how important accountability is to education.

In Milwaukee, taxpayers spend approximately $711,000 a year to maintain empty Milwaukee Public School buildings. Several charter and private schools have been trying to buy them, in an effort to provide education options to kids in urban areas, but the school district refuses to sell. The school board president stated, “It’s like asking the Coca-Cola Company to turn over its facilities to Pepsi so Pepsi can expand and compete with the Coca-Cola Company.” So, the kids of Milwaukee are stuck in failing public schools with little chance of a better life.

What is the threat of charter schools and why does the public education system have it out for them? It’s usually two reasons. The teachers unions and control over education. Unions are some of the democrat’s biggest supporters and often times its democrats that run the urban school districts. If money is taken from failing public schools, and given to charter schools, then it directly hurts the pocketbook of the teachers unions.

Private and charter schools take power from bureaucrats and let parents decide where their children will go to school. Simple competition would force the government schools to work harder and produce a better product. That’s why at every turn those on the left fight hard against school choice. In many cases, they are not about what’s best for the education of children but what’s best for their control over education. They will cry racism when clearly there is none and, in the case of Alabama, they will sue states to stop school choice.

If public school officials don’t want kids leaving and going to private and charter schools then they need to create a better product. According to a report released by the Trulia real estate company, in school districts with top-rated public schools only 4% of school-aged children attend private school, whereas in the lowest-rated districts, 18% of kids attend private school.

Public, private, and charter schools are so different in scope and mission that it is misleading to lump them into individual groups and say that some are always better than others. Accountability is the key, however, and a parent’s right to send their children to school wherever they feel is best is fundamental and should never be questioned. THAT is the driving concept behind school choice.