The Chicago School Teachers Strike Reveals the Need For School Choice
It is time to move beyond rhetoric and ineffective top down federal programs and enact true educational Reform. It is time for school choice.
350,000 students are still out of school in Chicago. The Teachers Union called what the Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel referred to as a "strike of choice". The Mayor did not stop there, he added "And it's the wrong choice for children." The Mayor is correct. However, the right choice is school choice.
Striking Chicago teachers
CHICAGO, ILL (Catholic Online) - 350,000 students are still out of school in Chicago. The Teachers Union called what the Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel referred to as a "strike of choice". The Mayor did not stop there, he added "And it's the wrong choice for children." The Mayor is correct. I would add it's not the right choice for the parents and it's not the right choice if we really care about good education and the common good.
The right choice is school choice.
Some reports on the strike have criticized the salaries Chicago public schools teachers receive and point out that teachers work 200 days out of a year. In the year 2011 the median salary was $67,974. Some take issue with the labor union leadership which called for the strike, questioning whether it truly represents the best interest of the teachers, the parents and the children.
Others have focused on the poor performance statistics in the Chicago school system - only 60% of students end up graduating. Reports more sympathetic to the strike argue that the demand for evaluation of teachers is unfair and fails to recognize the full qualities and contributions of an educator because it focuses exclusively on test scores. Polls indicate that the strike is not faring well with the public, especially with parents.
The Chicago Teachers strike points to a much bigger social and public policy concern in the United States of America. This concern should become a main topic in the upcoming Presidential and Vice Presidential debates. It is time to move beyond rhetoric and ineffective top down federal programs and enact true educational Reform. It is time for school choice.
Those who oppose such a fundamental reform have taken to calling parental or school choice an effort to "privatize" education. In fact, it is an effort to "Parentize" education, by once again affirming that that the family is the first school and first government and parents are the first teachers. They should make the choices concerning the education of their children outside of the first school of the home.
Those who support school choice call for a public policy and enabling legislation which makes it possible for all parents, no matter what their socio-economic situation, to choose where to send their children to school. In her inspiring speech at the Republican Convention, Condoleezza Rice addressed our educational crisis and commended this approach:
"Your greatest ally in controlling your response to your circumstances has been a quality education. But today, today when I can look at your zip code and I can tell whether you're going to get a good education, can I honestly say it doesn't matter where you came from, it matters where you're going? The crisis in K-12 education is a threat to the very fabric of who we are."
"My mom was a teacher. I respect the profession. We need great teachers, not poor ones and not mediocre ones. We have to have high standards for our kids because self-esteem comes from achievement, not from lax standards and false praise. And we need to give parents greater choice, particularly, particularly poor parents, whose kids, very often minorities, are trapped in failing neighborhood schools".
"This is the civil rights issue of our day. If we do anything less, we condemn generations to joblessness and hopelessness and life on the government dole. If we do anything less, we will endanger our global imperatives for competitiveness. And if we do anything less, we will tear apart the fabric of who we are and cement the turn toward entitlement and grievance."
She is correct; we need to give parents greater choice. This choice should be available for parents from among a full array of options including public, private, parochial, virtual, charter and home schools. This is why I prefer to use the term "parental choice" in education when advocating for this reform. It recognizes that parents are the first teachers and should be the ones who make the choice where to expand their teaching mission for their own children.
As a constitutional lawyer I know this can be accomplished in a constitutionally sound way by empowering parents to make this vital choice through properly drafted voucher legislation, tax credits, or opportunity scholarships. Those who oppose school choice too often resort to scare tactics. They argue that it will detrimentally affect the public school system. Sadly, they rely on ignorance to fan the flames of their opposition to a truly just educational policy.
They claim that supporters of school choice are against public schools. That is not true. For example, this supporter of school choice grew up in the inner city of Dorchester, Massachusetts in a "blue collar" home. My parents struggled to give me the first four primary educational years in a parochial school. The remainder of my education was in a public school. They moved, at ...
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