I write this essay on Martin Luther King Day, 2018. How ironic, at least in my thinking, that the hero of the civil rights movement of his day, is still such an inspiration to what some have called, and I concur, the greatest civil rights struggle of our day. Namely, the battle to free the poorest and most disadvantaged among us from failing government schools, by providing economic educational choice for their families. I was also inspired to write this article after meeting with Rochester, New York’s first black woman mayor, Lovely Warren. Mayor Warren, a Democrat, is also a champion for the cause of educational choice.
Yes, thanks to a number of supporters from both Democrats and Republicans, the Educational Choice struggle is much closer to being won, as we begin 2018. One simply has to look at the recently passed tax law, to see that a major step to victory has been taken. For example, under previous law, tax-free 529 college savings accounts could be used only to pay for college. But the new tax law allows parents to use that money — up to $10,000 a year per child — to pay for private K-12 school tuition and homeschooling.
In addition, the new law will also be good for so called, tax credit scholarships. Since various states have tax credit scholarship programs that offer generous tax breaks for donating to special state-administered scholarship programs that help families pay for private schools. Many are predicting wealthier people will pour more money into tax credit scholarship funds in order to reduce their state tax burden and thereby create many more private school scholarships for lower income families.
Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has called it,”A good step forward, reflecting that education should be an investment in individual students, not systems.” And, “I look forward to continuing to work…to ensure all families have equal access to the education that meets their child’s unique needs.”
These echo the same sentiments that we have been expressing for years. Namely, that tuition for K-12, just as for college, should be primarily an investment in the individual student, not the institution they attend. And, that when it comes to a child’s education, just like the clothes they wear, one size does not fit all. This is so ingrained, that parents think nothing of doing their back to school shopping in various stores. So, naturally it follows that when September rolls around they pick out the public, charter, private, religious, online, or home school they truly think is the best fit for their precious, unique child...right? No, of course not. For most, reality sets in, when they get their annual zip code letter from the local, and unnecessary government monopoly: aka the one size fits all, secular, public school. You know the letter. It is the one that ignores your wishes and the educational uniqueness and potential of your child and instead tells you that your child is expected to enroll in the school and grade for your zip code. Yes, education by zip code, instead of a child’s potential, will once again be the reality of most parents. And, simply because the public schools deny them the right to use their tax monies to pay tuition for the schools of their choice. Instead, unfairly forcing them to pay for local public schools, even if they prefer not to use them. In doing so, they know full well that the vast majority of parents cannot afford both school taxes and private school tuition and therefore many will keep their kids, reluctantly, in public schools. Is this really what the public school’s mean by putting the kids first? Sounds like system first, and highly paid superintendent’s first to me. Take heart, we shall overcome.