Braving the Cold for School Choice

Member Group : Freindly Fire

They had camped out, some for 19 hours, prior to the event. Huddling in blankets, drinking coffee and playing cards, they slept on concrete sidewalks in freezing temperatures, but not one person thought about leaving. After all, this was something important, something worth the wait…something for which their kids would thank them years down the road.

The motivation of these diehards wasn’t to see the World Champion Philadelphia Phillies’ parade up close. It was infinitely more valuable.

They wanted a say in where their children went to school. You see, in Delaware, parents have choice in education because of the state’s public-to-public school choice program. Parents, not government bureaucrats, actually choose the school they believe is best for their child.

Imagine that.

Unfortunately for Pennsylvanians, that’s where it ends. Imagining.

There is no true choice program in the Keystone State — public, non-public, or parochial. The teachers unions won’t allow it. Instead, they wield their clout with an iron fist, sucking up millions in forced union dues, and holding the gutless legislature hostage. The results speak for themselves.

We rank 7th in average teacher salaries and 12th in spending per pupil, but are a woeful 46th in SAT scores. And since Pennsylvania has a 79% graduation rate, we are, by definition, sending functional illiterates into the workforce, and into that thing we call Life.

So why don’t we have a common-sense school choice program? Because the unions resist any change in their fiefdoms, preferring the business as usual approach in all circumstances. Any attempt at accountability is vehemently fought, and school choice advocates are labeled "extremists" and "anti-public schools." Too many are too scared to take a stand.

At least we know where the priorities of union leadership lie.

In all fairness, teacher union leadership should fear school choice, because it would expose the long-held myth that throwing more money at the problem solves everything. People would instantly recognize that the only way to bring about real reform— which is to say, giving our children the quality education that is their right— is through competition.

When parents have a choice in their children’s education, schools that do well will attract more students and succeed, and those that continue with the status quo will lose students and fail. The free market system that has served us so well will have the same effect on our educational product. And for the first time in generations, our students will actually learn the skills necessary to succeed in life. Because of a quality education, they will have hope for a better tomorrow, understanding that it is better to live in a stable environment with a loving family than be part of a criminal world in which the lifespan is shorter than those in third-world nations.

The problem is that too many of our leaders lack the courage to buck union leadership and institute school choice. Mayor Nutter has made the connection that reducing crime is achievable only if students receive a meaningful education in a safe environment, but frustratingly, he refuses to take the next step. Consequently, all of his other educational initiatives are band-aid solutions to a gaping wound.

Delaware’s public-to-public choice program is a solid step forward. Too bad that in Pennsylvania, our families are walking backwards.

Chris Freind can be reached at [email protected]