Those opposing education reform are on the wrong side of history

I was recently invited to speak at the City Club in Boise on education policy and the ideas being discussed in the current Idaho legislative session. Realizing the education establishment would be well represented in the crowd, I knew I was heading into a somewhat hostile setting. But Mountain States Policy Center believes in going anywhere at any time to provide a free market perspective. We’re happy to have civil conversations and debate the merit of ideas. We may disagree, but we’ll do so respectfully.

As you might expect, the ideas I presented on education innovations received a frosty reception.

I discussed my own family’s situation, as well as the challenges so many other families face when they are limited to a school environment that might not provide the opportunities needed to succeed. I presented the written documentation and a collection of more than 180 studies that show education choice can provide great impact while helping children succeed.

I made clear that education choice means an all of the above approach – traditional public schools, charter schools, magnet schools, micro-schools, homeschooling and more. And I asked attendees to think differently about how we achieve success for every child – that we needed to support reforms and an approach unique to Idaho that respects the role of public schools but also adds more choice for families who need it.

To top things off, I talked about making it easier for parents to compare school district budgets with a Public School Transparency Act.

By the end of the forum, the frost had turned to a deep freeze. The only message that seemed to resonate with most attendees was that public schools just needed more money.

As I watched the reactions of the crowd, I could only conclude one thing: those in attendance represented education past, not education future. (Listen to audio of the Boise City Club forum on education here.)

It doesn’t have to be this way. Innovative education leaders can be found across the nation. They are all willing to try new things to improve educational outcomes for children. They realize that we cannot treat the smartphone era the same way we did when kids rode horse-drawn buggies to a single-room schoolhouse. They understand that it’s about much more than putting more money into the current system.

Can we find these leaders in our state?

Education opportunity is one of the greatest civil rights issues of our time. The American public gets it. Polling has consistently shown broad support across political parties and demographics.

The strongest support comes from minority communities and young people.  According to a Morning Consult poll, 78% of black parents support Education Savings Accounts, while only 8% oppose.

Nearly 90% of black mothers in a recent poll said they don’t believe the traditional approach to public school meets students’ needs.

Millennials are being called the “school choice generation.” Beck Research polling found 68% of millennials support education choice – with Latino support reaching 75%.

The polling also shows those most opposed to making any changes or offering further choice are predominately older and white, much like the crowd I faced.

The former Superintendent of the Madison School District recently called education choice plans nothing more than “yacht vouchers.” Other education leaders in our state have used similarly offensive language.

Meantime, parents, young people and minorities are pleading for reforms that can help all children.

The future of the country is eager for change, whether the education establishment likes it or not. Those who ignore their plea for innovation and options risk the judgment of history.

Chris Cargill

Chris Cargill

Chris Cargill is the President & CEO of Mountain States Policy Center, an independent free-market research organization based in Idaho. Online at mountainstatespolicy.org.

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