And Then There Were Ten
Prior to two years ago, no state offered its families the benefit of choosing their children’s school—either public or private—using state education dollars. As of this week, North Carolina became number ten to do so and Texas is close to becoming number eleven. That means that over 7 million children, out of about 50 million K-12 students in the United States, can now choose a school or education setting that fits them. If Texas joins the group, that number will nearly double.
Universal school choice—which is what we call it when all families can choose a school, not just those who can afford private schools or afford to move to a “good” school district—is having an interesting political movement. Bipartisan efforts have led to many of the recent universal choice programs. The concept that a child might find themselves in a school that is not working well for them seems to cut across party lines. Divisive issues such as vaccines, curricula, and bullying (particularly of LGBTQ students) also make it easier to understand why children and families might feel trapped by school assignment policies.
Those invested in the traditional public school system have fought hard against opening up the system to choice. Many still cling to the idea that one school or one district can serve every need equally well. Most children probably fall into some range of being able to adapt (though not necessarily thrive) to whatever is offered at their neighborhood school. But should we continue to kid ourselves that the system will adapt to support those students who can’t seem to learn in their neighborhood school or who dread going there in the morning?
North Carolina families have just become entrusted with a big responsibility—taking ownership of their children’s education instead of accepting the default. They join families in Arkansas, Oklahoma, Iowa, Indiana, West Virginia, Utah, Arizona, Florida, and New Hampshire. Don’t Missouri families deserve that trust?