More Educational Choice Needed in 2013

Over the next several days, millions of children will return from their holiday vacation and walk through the doors of a school that does not serve their needs. Before the month ends, thousands will drop out and by the end of 2013 more than a million of these children will leave school never to return again. As we enter this new year, it is time for us to rethink how we make schools work for all kids. During 2012, there was increased activity centered around a host of education reform initiatives designed to fix our schools. Through Race to the Top, the Obama Administration has awarded millions of dollars to selected school districts to help incentivize systemic reform. The administration is also driving the common core standards discussion which, along with improved teacher quality initiatives, continues to gain momentum in many states. These and other reform measures will be aggressively pursued during 2013.

But these efforts are not enough.

In fact, since the landmark Nation at Risk Report of 1983, which served as a warning for our failure to address the nation's educational inequities, countless education reform initiatives have been pursued at both the state and federal levels and none have changed the downward spiral we see in the educational outputs of our kids, especially when compared with other nations around the world.

Why is it that after years and years of trying, we can't get education right in this country? The answer can possibly be found in the famous Einstein quote about the definition of insanity which is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. In truth, virtually all of the education reform initiatives we have seen for the past thirty years are the same. Or they at least come from the same mindset, namely laying a foundation for long-term future reform. Think about it. The only reform focused on immediately helping kids in need are those relating to educational choice, reforms, such as charter schools, opportunity scholarships, tax credit scholarships, virtual schools and home schooling.

Educational choice matters and parents are responding because kids are offered quality options without having to wait years for the reform initiative du jour to kick in. Unfortunately, however, most education reformers are focused solely on the various long-term reform initiatives, while giving little attention to the immediate, short-term solutions found in embracing choice. Part of the reason some reformers run from education choice lies in the politics and realities of challenging the status quo. Understood. But bear in mind that none of these long-term systemic reform efforts will work without quality educational choices for parents. No school bureaucracy has ever reformed itself from within. Bureaucracies will only change through external pressure. Educational choice offers the best form of external pressure for changing recalcitrant school districts.

While we should continue to support meaningful long-term reform initiatives, more quality options are needed for families in 2013. The best way to educate a child in a bad school is to put them in a good school. For the millions of kids trapped in failing schools, let's give their parents quality educational options today. These families should not have to wait for their kids to get the caliber of education they so rightfully deserve.