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January 13 2011

30 Ideas for 30 Days: Day 7

Nicole Kurokawa Neily

It’s often said that education is the great equalizer. But what happens when the education is subpar?

Suggestion #7: Empower parents to remove their children from failing schools.

If you’re the services you receive from a company are unacceptable, you are entitled to take your business elsewhere. However, this principle doesn’t apply to education, for some reason – despite it being such an important part of our lives, and those of our children.

American public schools aren’t held in high esteem; in an August 2010 study, Gallup found that 79% of Americans would give the nation’s public schools a grade of C or lower. Unfortunately, when children are in failing schools – of which there are many – parents have woefully few options. Students are assigned to public schools based on geography; live in the wrong school district, and your choices are limited. Parochial schools may or may not be a viable option depending on your religious views, and not everyone can afford private school tuition. Wealthier families are more likely to be able to afford private school – or moving to a better district, even – so the people who are most hurt by the lack of freedom ends up being average families, poor families, and often, minorities.

The Center for Education Reform succinctly makes the case for educational choice:

School choice means better educational opportunity, because it uses the dynamics of consumer opportunity and provider competition to drive service quality. This principle is found anywhere you look, from cars to colleges and universities, but it's largely absent in our public school system and the poor results are evident, especially in the centers of American culture – our cities. School choice programs foster parental involvement and high expectations by giving parents the option to educate their children as they see fit. It re-asserts the rights of the parent and the best interests of child over the convenience of the system, infuses accountability and quality into the system, and provides educational opportunity where none existed before.

In 1852, politician Edward Everett once said "education is a better safeguard of liberty than a standing army." I hope we can one day be that nation.

Independent Women’s Forum’s mission is to improve the lives of Americans by increasing the number of women who value free markets and personal liberty. Sister organization of Independent Women’s Voice.
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