In his State of the Union Address, President Obama continued to hammer home a point that will likely be a central tenet of Democratic campaigns in 2014 – “income inequality.” The President and his party seem to believe income inequality can be solved with a simple wave of the big government wand. But income inequality is the symptom of many other issues, one of which is education. Millions of children are being deprived the chance at a great education and the subsequent social mobility. If the President is serious about creating opportunity, he will support, rather than fight, school choice programs that improve outcomes for poor and minority students.
Too many children, especially in minority communities and dangerous low-income neighborhoods, are condemned to failing government-run schools. No student should be forced to attend an underperforming school because of his or her zip-code or inability to afford private school tuition.
Charter schools have undoubtedly been the most successful education reform. Free from many of the restrictions of traditional public schools, charters allow greater flexibility in tailoring education. Opportunity scholarships, tax credits, and education savings accounts give parents the power to choose and spend money on schools they would not otherwise be able to afford. These initiatives force all schools to compete, since each time a student leaves a school, that school loses funding. Across the board, competition creates incentive to produce a better product, and our children’s education should be no different.
School choice reforms have proven repeatedly successful, especially in areas of the country where it was needed most. The Success Academy Charter Schools in New York City’s poorest neighborhoods are some of the best schools in the state. In 2012, 97% of Academy students passed the math section, 88% passed the English section, and 100% passed the science section of New York’s student assessment test. Right here in the nation’s capital, 91% of students in the DC Opportunity Scholarship Program graduated high school, almost 30% higher than the city’s public school rate.