School choice is more than a political platform position

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Julie Reeder
Julie Reeder

What is nothing more than part of a political platform, or a political narrative, to some people is to others an opportunity for freedom and life-changing opportunity. School choice was painted for years with ignorance and fear that uneducated or “bad” parents would take their children to “witch schools” or some other inappropriate school setting. These fear-based oppositions were ignorant ones in my opinion.

I appreciated following four different educational paths for my four children who were unique and had unique needs. Some have learning disabilities, and all have different learning styles. While it’s not always the case, by far and large, parents are the ones who know their children the best and love them and have their best interests first and foremost. For the most part, parents would do anything for their children.

It’s one of the most detrimental things for a family and their student’s future, when the parents’ hands are tied and they are stuck without choices, a failing or dangerous school or their student’s needs are not being met.

How advantageous would it be for that family, the community and society, if a parent’s tax dollars followed their student so that the parent could find the best school to fit the needs of their individual student?

That question is what school choice is all about. As a parent who has taken advantage of local public schools, a private school, two charter schools and even home-schooled for a time, I can testify that all children are not round pegs that fit into round holes. My family overcame issues that the schools just weren’t set up to handle, and no one knew them better than their father and me.

Every child in every neighborhood should have the opportunity to decide for themselves, and not just families in “good” neighborhoods.

School choice is a scary idea for those in public education because it removes their absolute control over children’s education. They see themselves as the “experts,” and maybe they are, but I believe it is less about the children and more about job security. If it wasn’t, then the recent demands by the United Teachers Los Angeles, a union consisting of 35,000 members, wouldn’t have outlined a series of demands that included defunding the police and closing charter schools.

From their statement: “Police violence is a leading cause of death and trauma for Black people and is a serious public health and moral issue. … We must shift the astronomical amount of money devoted to policing, to education and other essential needs such as housing and public health.”

I wonder if they knew that shootings by Los Angeles police officers reached a 30-year low in 2019, with fatal shootings declining for the fourth year in a row, according to a new report on police use of force.

I wonder how defunding the police will benefit students.

The paper ended with a section titled, “In Conclusion: Normal Wasn’t Working For Us Before. We Can’t Go Back.”

Then this week I saw a video of a parent in East Los Angeles showing that his student was learning BLM curriculum. It looked more like indoctrination rather than education. I doubt defunding the police and charter schools will make things better. Maybe defunding the Los Angeles Unified School District and starting over would be more beneficial.

School choice has become a hot national topic as well.

Democrats are supported by teachers’ unions to the tune of more than $32 million, according to http://www.opensecrets.org, so they are against school choice.

“Even more than most labor unions, they have little use for Republicans, giving Democrats at least 94% of the funds they contributed to candidates,” according to Open Secrets.

Republicans don’t have the support of the teachers’ unions, so they are free to support school choice.

“A child’s ZIP code in America should never determine their future, and that’s what was happening. So we’re very, very strong on school choice,” President Donald Trump said.

School choice is the term for giving students and families options in K-12 education, usually referring to charter schools and/or vouchers for private schools. Trump has publicly supported “the money following the student.”

Just as my husband and I were able to choose the best educational path for our children, I believe the best way to support inner city children or at-risk children is to provide their parents with school choice. People can’t keep talking about hope and change without action.

School choice was on the ballot years ago in California. Dr. Stephen Guffanti, the doctor who backed the ballot measure, told me about a group of at-risk boys who were lured to school by the opportunity to do something they cared about, learning to fight. A martial arts teacher taught them for an hour, and they ran for quite a way to get to school, if I remember correctly. By the time they got to school, they were ready to concentrate. They all graduated and went on to college.

That’s what they needed, and it worked for them. What other students need will be different. Schools need the competition, competence and innovation. Children are too precious and too important.

Everyone’s future depends on it.

Julie Reeder can be reached by email at jreeder@reedermedia.com.