Opinion: Where you live should not determine your child’s education
Lamentably, the federal government does not have much enthusiasm for school choice. That cold shoulder toward school choice hurts low-income families the most
New parents tend to “nest” when expecting a baby. This means piling up purchases, of course, but it also includes the careful collection of advice. Expectant parents consult family members, friends and often a slew of books, classes and coaches so they can carefully consider which products, procedures and philosophies to use while rearing their child.
This is a natural part of parenting. Maybe this is my paternal side showing, but I would venture that a lot of the consideration between brands of stroller or size of diaper bag are ultimately much less impactful than some decisions over which most parents have little to no say, like the child’s K-12 education.
For millions of Americans, the choice of where their kids go to school is made when they choose where to live. Their tax dollars and usually their children are sent to the local public school, whether they like it or not.
This is not universally the case. Some parents can send their children to private or charter schools due to their ability to pay tuition, scholarships or well-crafted state laws but, more often than not, those parents are better off financially than their neighbors and can cover the tuition, transport and tangential costs of choosing another school.
In the case of the parents who choose to homeschool their children, the increased costs of books, programs and activities are paid on top of their state and federal taxes that go to the schools to which they deliberately chose not to send their children.
Recently, entire elections have swung on the issue of parents’ choice of schools and involvement in schools’ decisions. We are blessed in Utah to have some of the best teachers, schools and school districts in the nation. Utah parents are involved in the public schools and the schools are widely appreciative and responsive. We have competitive charter schools available and many noble homeschooling parents, education pods and hybrid options.
Utah state law provides options to parents that those across the country envy.
Lamentably, the federal government does not have much enthusiasm for school choice.
That cold shoulder toward school choice hurts low-income families the most. The thousands of federal dollars per low-income student throughout a K-12 education currently go to local public schools. This contributes to students, families and entire communities feeling trapped in schools that fail to provide the foundation they need to succeed. These school traps can rob children and parents of the best bet they have to break cycles of poverty and access opportunities.
Parents know infinitely better than bureaucrats what is best for their children. That is why I introduced the CHOICE Act. This bill will allow parents to choose to direct federal dollars to the public schools their children attend or to a 529 educational savings account to help cover the expenses of homeschooling, private school, trade school or college.
This bill would help empower parents to make the most impactful choices for their children, because there is no one better qualified. It allows dollars to follow their students, which in turn provides them with a greater voice in the classroom.
John Schilling, the president of the American Federation for Children, put it simply, saying, “Education funding is meant for educating children, not for protecting a particular institution. This bill directly empowers lower income families by funding students, not systems.”
Families are what make Utah great. In every choice from strollers to schooling, the well-being of the child is the parent’s primary concern. So, let’s put parents in charge. This bill is part of a movement in which parents are taking back choices that are rightfully theirs.
Students, communities and our nation will benefit. Parents deserve CHOICE.
Mike Lee is the senior United States senator from Utah.