18 Feb 2013

School Choice

Submitted by John T Reagan

Here's a copy of a letter I just wrote to the editor of our local paper:

Dear Editor,

As I write this I am sitting in a high school classroom, filling in as a substitute for the regular classroom teacher.  My students are precious treasures, full of potential and of great value.  I love working with them and it grieves me at how badly we are failing them.  These young people face a demanding future and desperately need a broad pool of knowledge and skills to see them through the challenges life is going to throw at them.  Yet vast numbers of America’s young people graduate with substandard educations.  How sad!

Even worse is how our public schools fail to provide an environment in which a student can develop the discipline and moral character necessary for a successful future.  Young people develop character when they are given a structured environment and are disciplined when they do wrong.  It is a rare thing in this day and age to find a public school that even tries to provide that kind of environment for these precious lives.

To be sure, all the blame cannot be placed on the schools.  Our society as a whole has ceased to value a good education.  Then, too, many parents object when the local school attempts to discipline their child.  Still, most moms and dads want the best for their children and will make choices that will benefit their education and positively develop their character.  How is it then that we tie parent’s hands by forcing them to send their children to the public schools?  We need to give parents a choice!

There is a strong rationale for using tax money to educate our children.  We all benefit from having an educated population and most families of school-age children find paying for private school too great a financial burden.  Since we all benefit, we all share the expense.  What doesn't make sense is to channel all of that money into failed government-run schools, excluding all other choices.

There is currently an ongoing attempt in the current Montana legislative session to offer parents some choices.  One bill would allow tax money to be used to establish charter schools.  Charter schools have proven highly effective in other states, but the only real solution is for the money to go where the parent chooses to send the child.  We need to empower parents, giving them the option to educate their child as they see fit.