If we want to get our country back on track, and keep it there, the best possible education, starting early, is vital. That makes school choice my No. 1 political issue in 2020. Real school choice means that the national average of $15+K per year per student spent on public school K-12 education would follow the student, to be spent as the parents see fit. Parents would choose amongst freely available and equally funded traditional public, public charter and private schools.
Only one party supports school choice.
That is the subject of today’s 10-minute episode.
“The caribou feeds the wolf, but it is the wolf who keeps the caribou strong.” Keewations (Inuit) proverb.
One of the signature environmental books of the 70’s was “Never Cry Wolf” by Farley Mowat (how’s that for a name?). A wonderful book with many intriguing, fun, and memorable anecdotes, with the core message being that wolves had been getting a bad rap. Until the publication of Mowat’s book, wolves were broadly seen as dangerous predators, with few–if any–redeeming characteristics. In his view-changing book, Mr. Mowat provides convincing proof that wolf packs make the caribou herds stronger. A truth the Inuit had known for generations.
How could that be? Don’t wolves prey on caribou? Indeed they do, but Mowat proved that the wolves attacked and killed only the weak, diseased and injured caribou, leaving the herd stronger. He observed that even the fastest wolf had a nearly impossible time felling a healthy caribou. This limitation caused the wolf to make the herds stronger by eliminating the weak animals who would slow the herd, reproduce and compete for food.
In the same way that wolf packs make the caribou herds stronger, charter schools and vouchers will make public schools stronger. No sane parent would choose a charter school or take advantage of a voucher if the local school was strong, producing good results with its students. They would opt out only from the weaker schools. And unlike the caribou, weak schools get a second chance. If parents start opting for other choices in significant numbers, the troubled school has time to improve and strengthen. If the school cannot or will not improve sufficiently, it will close and improve the overall quality of the herd. If this happens repeatedly and over time, there might be fewer public schools. But the remaining public schools will be stronger. Even more importantly, the “herd”, public schools and charters, both serving the students, parents and the community, will be stronger.
Vouchers are another type of helpful wolf. Charters provide one type of strengthening competition–vouchers another. Vouchers could be used in a broad variety of schools, likely more schools with more types of choices than local charters. Obviously this further expands the choices available to parents and students. And more competition will make the K-12 herd stronger.
Speaking of variety, I support the use of vouchers for faith-based schools. Faith-based schools, Christian, Muslim, Jewish, etc., are no more a violation of the separation of church and state than what is happening in most public schools today; espousing secular progressivism, humanism and/or deism. Or even atheism, which is often proselytized with an enthusiasm and passion that would be the envy of many a believer. Students presenting vouchers to a faith-based school would be allowed to opt out of any religious classes. And just how do students in traditional public schools opt out where teachers insert their personal convictions on subjects ranging from social justice and other politics to religion–or antipathy to any form of religion? In classes ranging from history to math.
Families with money already have the ability to make their own school choice, independent of charters and vouchers; they simply write a check to the private school of their choice (there’s that word, again). And this includes many politicians who steadfastly resist school choice in the form of charters and vouchers for those less well off. With the exception of Amy Carter, youngest daughter of President Jimmy Carter, no school-aged child of any sitting President has gone to a public school. All of them attended Sidwell Friends School, a private, Christian school currently charging $40K a year. At the same time, some of these Presidents have been quite clear about opposing school choice in the form of vouchers for those who cannot pay. An example from the 2020 election: Joe Biden sent his kids to private schools, yet opposes school choice. All while the D.C. schools remain among the highest cost and lowest performing public schools in our nation.
Families without the money needed to make the right school choices for their children, disproportionately minorities, are forced to suffer with the worst of the overall failing public schools. Yet the very people who work the hardest to deny these families anything like real school choice tell them they are the party that cares for them. Sometimes even telling them they are “chumps” if they vote for the school choice party.
All of us, parents or not, want the best possible K-12 education with the most efficient use of taxpayer dollars, for all of the children in our country. Choice is key. Car manufacturers make better cars because they know that we have many choices, so they had better be competitive or die. It works that way all over our economy, including electronics, food, clothing, housing, entertainment–compete with a better product or service or crash.
Don’t we owe at least as much in the way of choice and excellence to our children as we do to people who buy smartphones? Think hard on that as you vote.
Tell me what you believe. I and many others want to know.
As always, whatever you do, do it in love. Without love, anything we do is empty.
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Will Luden, coming to you from 7,200’ in Colorado Springs.