If there is one thing the New York mayoral race has taught us it is that parental choice in education can be a unifying issue. Maybe the hysteria induced by COVID-19 should be credited for this revelation, but all across America, parents are reevaluating how and what their children are being taught—and seeking better solutions.
This past week, Randi Weingarten, the powerful president of the American Teachers’ Federation, threw shade at several Democratic New York City mayoral candidates over their (varying) support for New York charter schools, an issue traditionally supported by Republican leaders.
“I’m incredibly disappointed to see Kathryn Garcia go this route with charters,” she tweeted. “She’s embraced the unacceptable policy of lifting the charter cap in NYC. Now.. Two minutes be4 early voting starts. Wondering why?”
The three leading candidates in the Democratic primary—Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, entrepreneur and former presidential candidate Andrew Yang, and former city sanitation Commissioner Kathryn Garcia—all endorse charter schools to a varying degree.
Such strong Democratic support for more choice in education has become a thorn in the side of America’s largest teachers union, which has opposed parental choice in education for decades. But as parents are now realizing, a one-size fits all education program fails to fit all. The innovative ways in which children are being taught in charter schools (which remain public schools) is proving successful—and popular with parents.
According to 2019 figures, 63% of New York charter school students grades 3 through 8 passed the New York State math exam, compared to just 46% of those students in traditional public schools. And 57% of charter school students passed the English Language Arts proficiency test, compared to 47% of traditional public school students.
Considering charter schools are accountable to their results and often offer longer, more strenuous school days, it is imperative that parents—especially lower income and disadvantaged families—have the opportunity to provide a quality public education for their children.
But the issue is not just about charter schools. It’s about a child’s access to, and a parent’s choice of, the best education possible.
Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC) tackled the issue of school choice directly when he sponsored an amendment that aimed to allow low-income families to bring Title I funds to the schools of their choice.
“So when we look at this through the eyes of a poor kid or if we look at this through the eyes of a single mother who is struggling simply to make ends meet,” Scott said on the Senate floor, “it seems very clear to me that providing more educational options is the right path forward for us to make sure every child everywhere experiences their full potential.”
The solution is more choice, not less. Opportunity thrives when limitations on choice are unshackled from calculating bureaucracy.
It has become a cliché political position in Washington to talk about fixing the disparity in educational opportunities—without actually doing anything about it.
The truth is, a child’s zip code should never define their opportunity, and it’s powerful elites like Weingarten who are standing in the way to expanding opportunity and educational choice for all.