Photo credit: K.W. Barrett Elementary School (CC-By-2.0)

It is not a secret that COVID-19 has shaken up our educational system. When school buildings closed their doors, parents were thrust into new ways of educating their kids. While some counted down the days until in-person education began again, some have welcomed the change with open arms as it has prompted them to change how their child is educated moving forward. So why should a widespread lie keep them from doing so?

The lie being spread, one that puts students at an extreme disadvantage, is that the best way to support students is to prevent any funding from being taken from public schools, whatever the cost. It makes sense why so many people tout this line. After all, even the strongest school choice advocate can acknowledge that for some students and families, public schools are the RIGHT choice. No one wants to see public schools fail. 

At the same time, without saying the exact words, what the people promoting this lie push for is a monopolized educational system, one where public schools are the only viable option. Why should dollars be attached to systems and not to the students those systems are supposed to serve? Why should families be forced into a monopolized educational system simply because they cannot spend the money associated with their students (which is funded by THEIR tax dollars) on the schooling of their choice? When you step back and look at the concept of school choice, it is obvious that this is comparable to just about any free-market dilemma.

In a true free-market, there is competition. And competition makes things BETTER, not worse. In order to attract business or to get an edge over those providing the same services or selling the same product, a company must fight to be the best, to do what no one else can. 

Why shouldn’t we approach school choice the same way?

We all are fighting for the same goal – for the BEST possible option for our students. And if public schools are the BEST possible option, as many who oppose school choice claim, they should be able to stand on their own. The marketplace of educational options should not be monopolized in an effort to defend public schools. 

And if these schools fail to attract and serve students? Then their parents should be free to spend their educational dollars elsewhere. Public schools should not be insulated and defended above all – instead, they should be competing with private schools, charter schools, homeschooling, and whatever other educational options you can think up. 

Some claim that the reason public schools must trap student funding is that otherwise, they will not be able to properly function. On the surface this argument makes sense. But when you dig deeper into the numbers and research (something that cannot be properly accomplished in this short space but that I encourage you to do for yourself), the argument falls apart. Data shows that simply throwing more money at our public schools does not actually solve the problems we think it will. And really, this makes perfect sense – since when has simply throwing more money at a government system dramatically improved how it functions? 

I would love to see a future where I am free to homeschool my kids while my neighbor registers her kid in a charter school, my best friend’s children attend a private school, and the family at my church enrolls their children in the local public school system. Education should be about what is best for the students, not defending a monopolized system and pushing a one-size-fits-all solution. American children will flourish when families have the ability to choose the option that is best for them. 

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