The past few years have been a boon for education freedom, with more than half a dozen states passing some sort of school choice program in the 2023 legislative session. This alone is reason for celebration this National School Choice Week. 

But even as policymakers in ArizonaFloridaWest Virginia, and more recognize the importance of expanding educational options for students and the appetite their constituents have for such measures, plenty more are digging in their heels. 

In December, for example, the Chicago Board of Education passed a resolution to “[shift] away” from the current choice-based model that allows students to apply to the high school of their choosing to a model that “elevates our neighborhood schools” — or, restricts students to their neighborhood school — “to ensure each and every student has access to a high-quality educational experience,” said the board’s president, Jianan Shi.

Keep in mind: more than 76% of Chicago high school students and 45% of elementary school students currently choose not to attend their zip code-assigned school. And more than two-thirds of Illinois voters support expanding options for families who want even more freedom. A poll by the Illinois Policy Institute last April found 62% supported school choice compared to 28% who opposed it. Among parents, the margin was even wider, with 70% of parents expressing support for education freedom compared to just 21% of parents opposed to it. 

It should come as no surprise that Chicago’s officials defended the resolution with the usual liberal buzzwords. Students should be pushed toward traditional public schools and away from private options, they argued, to rectify “past ongoing racial and economic inequity and structural disinvestment.” Whatever that means.

Regardless, it’s clear that the only ones furthering “inequity” and propping up “systemic racism” are the Chicago Board of Education’s members. Chicago’s public schools have been abysmally performing for years. And after the pandemic, during which school officials publicly battled the city’s Democratic mayor in an effort to remain closed for as long as possible, academic proficiency hit the floor — especially among minority students. Data released by the State Board of Education in 2022 shows just 11% of black students were able to read at grade level, and only 6% were proficient in math. Only 17% of Latino students were reading at grade level, and 11% were proficient in math.

Is it any wonder, then, that so many Chicago families have left the public school system altogether? In fact, Chicago Public Schools has suffered 11 straight years of enrollment decline and lost more than 10% of its enrollment in the past four years alone.

Meanwhile, in school choice programs passed in states such as Arizona and Florida, enrollment is bursting and academic achievement is improving. These programs continue to prove that school choice works. It works for students who are given the chance to succeed in an environment that best suits their needs. It works for parents who are given more say over the quality of education their children receive. It works for schools that are forced to compete with each other to maintain enrollment. And it works for all taxpayers who are no longer forced to pay into a system that has long since stopped providing them with any sort of return.

But Chicago’s officials, and all other school choice opponents, won’t be bothered to care so long as the government funding keeps rolling in and the teachers’ union checks keep cashing.