Our nation is at war. I’m not talking about an external battle — we are in a war for our nation, our national security and its future. The battleground? The classroom.
Our nation’s education system is failing, and it’s time to treat the problem as seriously as we would any external attack.
According to the Nation’s Report Card, two-thirds of our nation’s eighth-grade students are below proficiency in math. More than three-quarters are below proficiency in civics.
That should frighten every American.
Yet despite the grave state of our nation’s schools, people like Sen. Bernie Sanders are trying to kill a successful and popular public school option and restrict our educational system to only one vision of education, standing in the way of opportunity for more students, in the name of conformity.
As part of his latest presidential campaign, Sanders has proposed a moratorium on federal funding for public charter schools. That makes no sense.
Charter schools are one of the best weapons we have to educate children, particularly poor or minority children.
Studies from the University of Arkansas and many other institutions show that charter schools regularly outperform better than their public counterparts with less funding.
Sanders’s tirades about charter transparency (which of course exists), regulation (which charters have plenty of) and accountability (which is the very essence of charters) are both misinformed and counter-productive.
More importantly, Sanders’s proposal will disempower parents. New education options have seen an explosion of growth in the last two decades, and not because they’ve been foisted on communities and children by federal bureaucrats. It’s because parents in cities around the country have demanded the option to send their child to innovative, high-quality schools.
Just look at the black community, one of the most underserved populations in America. 86 percent of black parents support having more options in public education, including traditional public schools and charters. But many of those parents are hindered by the lack of available charter schools or by long wait lists.
The message has been clear and consistent: parents want more options, not fewer.
Education should not be about prioritizing one learning environment over another. Every asset is important in the battle, and our children can’t afford for us to play favorites. And yet powerful interest groups like teachers unions want us to believe that there’s only one way to educate students — that a monolithic, top-down, centrally-controlled system is superior for every student. That’s simply not the case.
As Johns Hopkins professor Ashley Berner argues in her pathbreaking study of other countries, pluralism in education works. Countries that sponsor and support a wide array of educational options show not only equality of opportunity, but equality of results.
The U.S. is by nature a pluralistic country, and yet some behave — including Sanders — as if we should live in a dictatorship when it comes to education.
But we are not. We’re a pluralistic nation with thousands of different peoples, cultures, and habits. Our education system should mirror the diversity that is America’s wealth and hallmark. We have fought to keep our nation the land of opportunity, and we must fight to ensure that opportunity exists in every venue, most notably in education.
To win the war for education excellence, we cannot use only one type of weapon. We must put all of our assets on the battlefield, supporting any education program or organization that communities, parents, and educators can develop.
If the opponents of choice and educational progress had their way, our nation’s students will not have that future. The battles we wage are for them. Who are yours for, Senator?