Parents Deserve a Seat at the Table
It’s no secret that 2021 has been a boon for American families hoping for more flexibility with their child’s education. Though support for school choice policies has been steadily rising over the years, pandemic-related school closures, Zoom learning, and polarizing curriculum content drove support to its highest levels ever. This year, three out of every four parents supports policies like education savings accounts, tax-credit scholarships, vouchers, and charter schools.
This support extends beyond party lines. The American Federation for Children just released new polling that asked Republicans, Democrats, and Independents how they felt about private or home-schooling vouchers for families that disagree with a school’s curriculum or masking policies. The results show that support for school choice is not driven by political ideology, as a majority of each party’s respondents stated their support for vouchers.
Every parent deserves a voice in their child’s education, which is why it was disheartening to hear former Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe say earlier this week “I don’t think parents should be telling schools what they should teach.” The former Governor further commented “I’m not going to let parents come into schools, and actually take books out, and make their own decision.” Nationally, 8 out of 10 parents say this school year was an “eye-opening” experience that shifted parental involvement. These parents are perfectly able to “make their own decision” and ought to be at the table alongside teachers, administrators, and school board members. Without them, the most important people in a child’s education are effectively shut out of the process.
Parental involvement is a major theme in ALEC’s new model policy, the American Civics and History Act, which requires social studies curriculum to be made publicly available online. The model also gives parents time to submit feedback on new instructional materials through a mandatory open comment period. Decisions on curriculum are still left to the board of education but can no longer be made without the voice of parents at the table.
The data also shows that school choice policies help students and society. An analysis of 169 different studies by EdChoice found that 86% of them, or 146 total, found school choice policies to produce positive effects. Just 6.5%, or 11 studies, found any negative effects. These studies roundly demonstrated positive impacts on student test scores, educational attainment, civic values, and parental satisfaction.
This is a pivotal moment for students and families around the country. With test scores plummeting and traditional public school enrollment declining, the need for expanded flexibility has never been greater. Already this year, state lawmakers have made it possible for 1.5 million more students to participate in school choice programs and governments are finding innovative ways to bridge the partisan political divide and promote educational freedom. Centering the voice of parents, not unions or politicians, will ultimately put our students on the best path to success.