This week, for National School Choice Week, IWF is doing a series of Q&As with school choice advocates from around the country. We interviewed mothers who started out advocating for their children and then realized that they needed to do everything they could to empower all families with education freedom.
1. You have been advocating for Sam, your son with special needs, for a long time. Your advocacy even inspired the creation Ohio’s scholarship program for students with disabilities. How did school choice help your family?
School Choice helped our family in so many ways; the greatest was the ability for all three of our children to be educated in the environments that suited each of them. We were able to use a variety of options for each child at the correct times in their education journey to help them become who they were intended to be.
The most obvious way that most people see is the education of our son Samuel with the passage of the Jon Peterson Special Needs Scholarship, but it goes much deeper than that. Each of our girls needed different education options at different times. The flexibility of breaking away from the “one size fits all” antiquated model made a difference between success and failure.
2. You were recently featured in a documentary entitled Parents Fight Back. What was the primary message you wanted to convey?
In the documentary “Parents Fight Back,” I wanted to convey that we, the parents, are and should be in charge of our child’s education. When the state or the federal government or individual groups try to use the education of our children as a means to push their agendas, we, the parents, are going to exercise our right to choose the best environment, which is why choice is so important. Parents know their children better than anyone else; our children are not bargaining chips.
I believe that the solution to all the current social issues facing the education debate is to give every parent everywhere the right to choose the education setting they feel is best for their children.
3. Who are the main opponents of school choice?
The primary opponents of school choice are those seeking the most power and gain from education, the teachers’ unions. There is an incredible amount of monopoly and pull from the unions, and their actions seem counter-productive to the goal of a well-educated society. If you look at who votes against the choice legislation, it is the union-backed politicians. If you look at what happened during the COVID disaster, the unions demanded schools remain closed. There is no good reason for all this when discussing options for better children’s education.
4. What is the school choice myth that you hear the most?
The myths that I hear most often are “school choice will collapse public education” and “school choice will take power away from the parents and put more power into the hands of the government if you accept the money.” Neither of these myths holds in the 22 years I have followed or advocated for school choice. First, I have seen public schools get more robust, and second, parents are becoming more empowered and informed and holding their representatives more accountable.
When I first started looking at public education for my children, it was virtually unheard of to be able to choose your school, funding, or resources. You had to use your neighborhood school. Homeschool parents were a minority group, and charter schools were almost unheard of. Now, the options are robust, homeschooling is a household name, and parents are involved in nearly every aspect of education. In the end, education choice has helped public schools, and the government hasn’t gained control of our families; it has only empowered them.
5. How can education savings accounts help families of students with disabilities?
Education savings accounts can help families of students with disabilities with access to funds to cover many of the needed resources that are over and above traditional education—things like therapies, technologies, and additional tutoring support. I have even seen families add additional curriculum and resources to meet needs not offered in the traditional brick-and-mortar government school. The ability for parents to make choices that will meet the needs of students while also giving our taxpayers a good return on their investment is always a good thing.
To learn more about school choice and Tera Myers, check out these conversations on IWN: Creating School Choice Options for Students with Disabilities, Mothers of Influence and EFC’s new podcast: Students Over Systems