by Ken Gorrell,
“Resistance is futile!” Anyone familiar with the Star Trek universe will recognize that threat as coming from the Borg (and will know that for some reason, in the 24th century, it’s pronounced FEW-tile). For non-Trekkies: Borg are an evil collective race with a single queen directing billions of cybernetic warrior drones. Their goal is to assimilate other species in order to increase their own power. Under the Borg, free will, self-determination, and choice do not exist. All resistance is crushed.While the Department of Education isn’t as powerful as the Borg queen, and the leaders of the NEA and AFT unions only sometimes resemble cybernetic drones, they all work against the education choice movement, intent on crushing resistance. Thankfully, in 21st century America, resistance to the Big Education collective is not futile. Next week is National School Choice Week (24 – 30 January), a celebration of choice and the self-determination of families looking for the best educational opportunities for their children.
Choice Week is billed as a “nonpartisan, nonpolitical public awareness effort.” And it should be, since the focus is on the needs of children. Yet in 2015, of the 21 governors who issued proclamations recognizing the celebration, only one was a Democrat. In D.C. and in Concord, support for education choice is generally split along partisan lines.
A simple idea: Parents should be free to choose how their children are educated, and the education options should not be biased in favor of one method or organization. To the education collective, that statement is heresy and a threat. The individual needs of children don’t matter as much as the needs of a particular system. Power matters. To the collective, competition bred by choice is an anathema. But to parents, education isn’t a power play, and children should be at the center of the education universe. For NH’s children, competition aided by our education tax credit scholarship program provides choices…and hope.
In a 2010 New York Times op-ed, author and political scientist Charles Murray wrote: “There are millions of parents out there who don’t have enough money for private school but who have thought just as sensibly and care just as much about their children’s education as affluent people do. Let’s use the money we are already spending on education in a way that gives those parents the same kind of choice that wealthy people, liberal and conservative alike, exercise right now. That should be the beginning and the end of the argument for school choice.”
As logical and compelling as Murray’s point is, it is neither the beginning nor the end of the argument because in politics, power plays trump logic. Nowhere is that more clear than in the poor neighborhoods of Washington, D.C., just blocks from the White House. President Obama has long opposed the District’s Opportunity Scholarship Program that, since its creation under President Bush in 2004, has provided hope to hundreds of families locked into the most expensive yet most clearly failing public school system. Sadly, the funding didn’t make it into the budget deal passed in December, so parents in our nation’s capital must fight for the ability to exercise “the same kind of choice that wealthy people” – including the President – exercise now.
In NH, the usual drones remain opposed to our education tax credit scholarship program. Putting the interests of a system ahead of the people it is meant to serve, they work to keep the playing field tilted in favor of parents wealthy enough to exercise choice. On the campaign trail Sen. Ted Cruz called education choice the “civil rights issue of the 21st century.” He’s right. And in this struggle, it’s mostly the GOP standing with lower-income families who wish to exercise the same choices the rich take for granted.
Economist Stephen Moore recently wrote that “a quality education is the best anti-poverty program ever invented” and “the best path to reducing income inequality.” Choice advocates believe that parents should be the arbiters of what is best for their kids educationally; opponents think that decision should be left to the education “elite” and opportunities should be circumscribed by Zip Code.
National School Choice Week events are planned across the state. The goal is to raise public awareness of education options and to help parents exercise their options. Even if you don’t have school-aged children, this civil rights issue is worth your time and attention. As we approach Primary Day, ask those asking for your vote if they stand with children and choice.
Ken can be reached at email@example.com