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Real Reform Means School Choice
Presidential candidates are rapidly staking claim to the mantle of the true “reformer.” With parents across the country dissatisfied with the performance of our schools, no one can truly call themselves a reformer without challenging the status quo monopoly in public education.
School choice -- giving parents a voice in where their children learn -- is the most exciting movement in education today. It provides parents with kids trapped in the worst schools, a chance to provide these children with an equal opportunity for a decent education.
Where it has been tried, school choice works:
In Milwaukee, after four years in a state-funded voucher program in Milwaukee, low-income students performed 11 percentile points better in math and 6 points better in reading than similar students who did not receive vouchers.
After one year, Cleveland students receiving state-funded scholarships scored higher in language, math, reading and social studies than similar public schools.
Support for school choice is especially strong among people who have the most to gain from increased education opportunities. For example, a survey by the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies found that 57 percent of African-Americans, 65 percent of Hispanics, and 47 percent of whites favor school choice.
But one powerful special interest continues to block efforts to give parents a voice in education: The Big Teachers Unions. They bitterly oppose school choice and have even gone to court to stop parents from sending their own children to a school of their choice. In fact, the Ohio Education Association went so far as to file a suit that resulted in a judge attempting to dis-enroll students one week before school started in Cleveland. The judge relented only after parent outrage ignited public opinion in Cleveland.
Simply put, a presidential candidate who wants to reform schools must be willing to take on the teachers unions. Any candidate who wants to be considered a reformer must fight the entrenched special interests.
Unfortunately, Senator John McCain has blinked when it comes to the teachers’ unions. His signature issue, campaign finance reform, leaves the unions untouched, and thus would give the teachers’ union even more power and leverage to block school choice efforts.
School choice works and school choice is wanted. It is worth taking on the special interests to give parent a voice and our kids a chance.