Wednesday, January 29, 2014

We Need To Be More Open To School Choice Here In Georgia, Especially In The Democratic Party

A better-educated Georgia, and a better-educated family, is a major void in current school reform efforts here in the state. The issues of competition and accountability are all too often ignored in efforts to improve public education. 

Now I'm a strong supporter of public schools, in fact I am a product of the public school system.  But I'm also in favor of school choice, which is a change from a few years ago. Quite simply, I believe in giving parents more choice about where to educate their children. My support of school choice is founded in the common sense premise that no parent should be forced to send a child to a poorly performing school.'

Unfortunately, however, countless parents, especially in the urban cities, are now forced to do just that. Parents in middle and upper-class communities have long practiced school choice. They made sure that their children attended schools where they would get the best possible education. There is no reason why this option should be closed to low-income parents. Education used to be the poor child’s ticket out of poverty. Now it’s part of the system that traps people in the underclass.

Why school choice? 

Two reasons: excellence and accountability. Parents want academic excellence for their children. They also want to know that there is someone in their child’s school who is ACCOUNTABLE for achieving those high academic standards.

In most cities/towns in this state, however, if your child is zoned into a school that is not performing well academically, and where teachers and administrators don’t see themselves as being responsible for academic performance, parents have no recourse. Parents can only send their child to that school and hope for the best. Under a school choice plan, a parent would have options. There would be consequences for a school’s poor performance. Parents could pull their children out of poorly performing schools and enroll them someplace else. If exercising this option leads to a mass exodus from certain underachieving schools, schools will learn this painful lesson: schools will either improve, or close due to declining enrollments.

 Nonetheless, believe that the Democratic Party should re-evaluate its position on school choice issues. 

Choice should not be included in partisan tones. School choice should be about giving our state’s children the best possible educational foundation. Some low-income Black parents here in Georgia have shown they care so much that they will even go so far as to look halfway around the world.....well not around the world, but a neighboring county/city in order to find a good school for their children.

And I've also hear people say that school choice is elitist, or even racist. The truth is that black low-income children are among the prime victims of the state’s failing public schools. Black parents know this all too well. This is why they have been so open to the idea of school choice.

With time, and through open dialogue, critics of school choice will come to see this movement for what it is: part of an emerging new battle for the millennium, the battle for education equity. We need to give poor children the same right that children from more upscale households have long enjoyed. The right to an education that will prepare them to make a meaningful contribution to society. It is that simple

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