One of the most important issues on the ballot in April and November will be the education of our kids. This is as it should be because education is not only the key to a strong and prosperous nation, but also the single greatest gift than one generation can give to the next. The frustrations of parents have grown into a political movement that is being felt in polling booths all over the nation.
In what will hopefully eventually be seen in time as a positive outcome of the pandemic, parents were forced to take a hard look at what and how their kids were being taught. Many parents did not like what they saw. Instead of the axiomatic “three Rs,” they found the curriculum riddled with the latest leftist fads from climate change to gender ideology to critical race theory. As kids finally returned to school buildings, many parents were frustrated by the destructive, ridiculous, and contradictory covid mitigation policies. Many schools, including the West Bend School District, have seen an increase in violence and classroom disruptions as kids damaged by the isolation enforced during the pandemic return to complicated social situations. Through all of this, the anger and frustration of parents has been increasing because government schools have turned a deaf ear to their concerns. As parents have tried to use the political process to express their dissatisfaction and frustrations with school boards and government school officials, they have been increasingly rebuffed and ignored.
Democrat Representative Lee Snodgrass let the cat out of the bag by tweeting what many government school officials think when she wrote, “If parents want to “have a say” in their child’s education, they should home school or pay for private school tuition out of their family budget.” In other words, parents should just pay their taxes and shut up. Snodgrass’ tweet gave voice to the arrogant condescension that parents are feeling from too many government school officials.
Parents have an expectation and a right that their kids are educated in accordance with their values and priorities. When that is not happening, they get justifiably angry. The root of the problem is that government schools are not capable of accommodating the spectrum of values present in the out modern society. They are not designed that way. They are designed to regress to the mean.
Government schools are political organizations that are governed by people who are chosen through the electoral process. By design, the government schools represent the values of the majority of the voters. When there are broad shared values that are held by the vast majority of the community, this system works fine. But when there are a wide variety of values to be represented, an elected government can only really represent some assemblage that adds up to 51% of the electorate. This leaves a significant portion of the community marginalized, frustrated, and angry. We see this reflected in all of our elected governments right now from Washington to school boards.
While we do not have a fix for this political frustration for state or national government, we do have a fix with schools. School Choice is the answer for how we can focus on education while still honoring the broad array of values that parents want to be reinforced with their children in school.
School Choice is not a conservative issue. It used to be considered a liberal issue. Many of the early advocates for School Choice were liberals who were fighting to give families who were not being represented in the power structure a chance to choose a school that will serve them better. These marginalized subsets of the larger community were unable to exert enough political power to change the government schools. School Choice prevented their children from being pawns in a political power struggle.
That is what the School Choice debate is really about: power and entrenched power structures. The government school establishment, from the local school districts to the Department of Public Instruction to the teachers’ unions, is powerful. School Choice is a challenge to that power because it transfers power to parents. As Snodgrass so eloquently explained, parents who pay get a say. School Choice gives all parents the means to have a real say in how schools are run and what is taught.
School Choice changes the dynamic by forcing schools — government and private — to be responsive to the families they serve. The discussion can be about education instead of a struggle for power. If one family is unhappy about a school teaching CRT or having to recite the Pledge of Allegiance, they can have the means to choose a different school that more closely matches their priorities and values. One should not have to defeat their neighbors in a political battle for their school to educate their children in a way that supports their values.
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