School choice is a parental right and the way of the future for education



The Tompkins Square School in NYC, a city in a state of educational turmoil

Mac Connors, Crier Staff

In the last few months, the ire of parents towards the public school systems across the United States has become evident. Whether their animosity stems from the teaching of divisive race theories, illogical gender theories or simply the unscientific mask mandates, public schools and their union-protected teachers have undermined parental rights one step at a time. Since the advent of the pandemic, many parents have transferred their children from public to private schools. The choice of where children attend school should not be left in the hands of the state, but in the hands of parents. In the 1925 Supreme Court case Pierce v. Society of Sisters, Justice James Clark McReynolds states “the fundamental theory of liberty upon which all governments in this Union repose excludes any general power of the State to standardize its children by forcing them to accept instruction from public teachers only. The child is not the mere creature of the State; those who nurture him and direct his destiny have the right, coupled with the high duty, to recognize and prepare him for additional obligations.” It is these words which give credence to the very essence of school choice, which is not merely a right of parents, but a duty of the state to provide.

A child should not be required to attend a school simply because of their zip code. In New York City, which houses the largest school system in the nation, only 63.8% of students were proficient in reading and an even lower 51.5% were proficient in math. These rates are significantly lower than many other school districts across the country. In Chicago, the rates were even lower, with 25% of students testing proficient in reading and 21% proficient in math. Why should parents be obligated to send their children to these failing schools because of where they live? The answer is that parents should not be forced to do this.

With the conditions created by COVID over the past few years, the situation in America’s public schools has only worsened. Students who would at least have the opportunity to interact with a teacher and physically access books and other learning materials, now must rely solely on virtual versions of all these resources. In lower income communities, this problem has been the worst, since families cannot even afford the technology to conduct online learning. In lieu of the COVID situation, parents began sending their children to private and charter schools. From 2019-2020, in the eve and early stages of the pandemic, public school enrollment dropped 3% nationwide. In New York City, enrollment dropped 38,000 students in 2020 and another 13,000 in 2021. This shows that there is a large trend underway by parents to send their children to alternative schools. However, there has been large resistance within the public school union community against this trend.

Public school unions continue to oppose parents sending their children to better schools, out of fear that drops in enrollment would cause them to lose their jobs. Now, I cannot chastise all public school teachers, but there are many who are simply not effective in their roles. Within the public school unions, there is a hierarchy, which cares not about the learning outcomes of the students, but the financial outcomes of their future. As a public school student until eighth grade, I can concur that these schools do not offer the finest education. Perhaps, the base of this problem is the tenuring of teachers after a certain duration as a faculty member. This idea of granting tenure, which should alone belong in higher education, has caused many teachers to become too relaxed in their attitudes towards improving their student’s learning. A college professor who is tenured, does not teach at the college for simply a job (although that is obviously important), but because they love their field of study and have become studious in it. A kindergarten teacher, who recites the ABCs daily, does not do so because they adore the alphabet, but because that was an open job. Tenure should not be allowed for elementary and middle school teachers, as they are not teaching at a particularly astute level of learning and are certainly not to most revered experts in whatever subject they teach, unlike their collegiate counterparts. The lessening of benefits for being a public school teacher would be the best solution to solve the problem of public school enrollment.

The most effective way to encourage school choice for parents, would be to allow school vouchers for them. This program, enacted in 16 states currently, gives parents a voucher from their public school district, out of the funds they pay to that district and allows them to spend it on sending their child to a school of their choice. This program allows for the complete and responsible rearing of children, according to their parent’s wishes. It is a total fulfillment of Justice McReynolds’s opinion from almost a century ago. This program would give all parents across this country the opportunity to decide their child’s future, instead of the government deciding it for them. If the past two years of COVID have taught us anything about education, it’s that school choice is the way of the future.