This link will take you to www.edchoice.org – this is a wonderful resource to learn about school choice and how it helps kids get the best education possible.
A one size for all approach to anything has never worked, so I don’t understand why we think it’s the best solution for public education in Oklahoma. I feel that offering only one public school option is unfair to our children and simply does not reflect the realities of life. It’s also unfair for the state to place undue financial burden on parents who are already paying for their children’s education simply because they are trying to find a different or better educational opportunity for their children. Please allow me to share several scenarios for why parents may choose home schooling, a virtual public charter school or something other than a brick & mortar public school: A pregnant teen that wishes to carry her baby to term but doesn’t wish to be at a school where she might feel uncomfortable, a teen or child that has been bullied or threatened, a teen or child with an injury that might take a few months to recover, a drug infested school district that parents are afraid for the safety of their kids, special need children with the inability to be in crowds or multiple buildings, or simply, parents who desire to keep their kids at home to learn their values rather than sending them to a school that does not share their values.
Currently, Oklahoma offers the Lindsey Nicole Henry Scholarship that allows children with special needs to go to a school that might fit their needs better. It’s a scholarship that was passed with bi-partisan support and signed into law under Democrat Brad Henry. In 2011, two of our local school districts sued the parents of these special needs kids because they used the scholarship to place their children in other schools. These districts wanted these children back in their schools. It’s hard enough raising children of special needs, but to be sued for trying to get help and the best education for your child is unthinkable and absolutely unacceptable. We have got to fiercely protect these children and their parents’ choice for their education.
Oklahoma also offers a wonderful program called the Oklahoma Opportunity Scholarship (OOS) to help kids receive school choice options by allowing Oklahoma individuals and companies to donate to the scholarship – this scholarship has been incredibly successful at helping meet the needs of children across our state.
It is imperative that we protect alternatives that allow parents the choice to decide what education is right for their children. After all, they are the taxpayer and the money, which has been budgeted for their child should follow their child for the 12 years they are in school.
It is also a fallacy to believe that the state knows better on how to educate that child because they feel parents are not engaged or do not care. While it is true that there are instances where this might occur, this is a very small percentage. It does not matter if we are talking about low or high-income families, the vast majority of parents want to see their kids be more successful than they are. School choice options help allow this dream to become a reality.
If you speak with those who oppose school choice alternatives, you usually hear the following:
- They claim that ‘vouchers take money away from our schools’
- They like to call all school choice options vouchers.
They do this because the word ‘voucher’ is a rallying cry for those who believe that all education dollars belong to the brick-and-mortar public school system. As I have discussed already, this is fundamentally wrong. The debate over school choice has never been about what is best for our children, the debate is about funding, and more specifically who educational dollars belong to.
Let me recap. I believe that during their K-12 education, education dollars belong to the child while opponents claim that the money belongs to the public-school system. Until this issue is settled, we will continue to have a government monopoly in education.
As an advocate for school choice solutions where the money follows the child, I believe that it introduces the concept of competition into education, and we as Americans love competition because it raises quality, lowers costs and rewards success. All of which are American ideals!
To provide school choice options resulting in improved academic outcomes for our children, you will find me to be an advocate and supporter of:
- The Lindsey Nicole Henry Scholarship for children with special needs
- The OK Opportunity Scholarship (let’s raise the cap)
- Brick & Mortar Charter Schools
- Virtual Public Charter Schools
- Private Schools
- Education Savings Accounts
- Brick & Mortar public schools
- Almost any other school choice option that has not been mentioned or thought of
Finally, it is not right to punish schools that are already successful simply because they receive funds through the Lindsey Nicole Henry Scholarship or another school choice funding option. Private schools by virtue of the fact that they compete for students must be successful, for if they are not, the competition will put them out of business. Adding government bureaucracy and unfair data reporting to their workload is unnecessary and morally wrong. I will protect any private school that takes these scholarships and fight against punishing them with undue regulations. These scholarships are a parent’s choice and if the state provides the funds for a school choice option, we should support these choices.