In recent weeks, parents from two different local private schools in my area have reached out to express their concerns about what they’re seeing. One group is struggling with the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) policies, lack of rigor, and anti-semitism they are witnessing. The other group is upset about a particular assignment focusing on gender and sexuality. The first school is secular. The second is a Catholic high school. Tuition for these schools ranges from $15,000 to $28,000, depending on the grade level.

These parents don’t know how fortunate they are. First, they had the means to choose the best learning environment for their children to begin with. Second, should they voice their concerns to the administrators and find them to be ignored or disregarded, they can pull their children and the funding accompanying them and find an environment that more closely aligns with their standards and values. They can also choose to stay knowing, with full transparency, what the agenda of the schools is. 

Many families nationwide have voiced their concerns about the same issues over the past few years. The difference is that they have had to voice them to apathetic school boards who relegate them to just a few minutes at monthly meetings where union-elected officials drone on for hours before allowing for public comment. When the school boards didn’t like what the parents had to say, they simply silenced them or shut down public comment. Not only did those parents have to face the condescension of the board members, but they also faced hostility and vitriol from belligerent social justice groups in their communities. 

While some of the parents who spoke out or privately expressed concerns had the ability to pull their children (and the funds connected to them) from the public school system, many did not. They remain trapped in schools that don’t align with their standards and values and trapped in a system more concerned with political and social agendas than students’ academic growth and achievement. 

Publicly voicing concerns over divisive and controversial issues can be frightening and intimidating. Leaving a school community that you have come to know and love is not easy. Choosing an educational path that is different from longtime friends and anything else you and your children have ever known can be daunting. Yet, for families with the means to choose private schools, they at least know their voices are attached to tuition dollars that follow their children. They also know that there are a variety of educational options available to them. That is simply not the case for too many families nationwide. 

Educational freedom, also known as school choice, funds students rather than systems so families, not the government, have control over their children’s educational path and environment. It “levels the playing field” and ensures that all students have access to the best learning opportunities in their communities. It also adds weight to the voice of concerned parents when addressing issues in their public schools. Most families like their public schools and want to stay there, but they want a real seat at the table regarding what is and isn’t taught. When public schools know that families have options, they will be more likely to listen to their “customers” and take their grievances and requests seriously. 

It’s good that families whose children attend private schools have leverage when it comes to addressing issues in their schools. They should use that leverage to ensure their children have the best educational experience possible. That same leverage should be available to all families in every school, and it can be if we fund students, not systems.