David Spady

When Mikhail Gorbachev took office, he spearheaded a political movement called Perestroika. This fundamental “restructuring” of Communist Party rule gave citizens a taste of freedom and a free-market economy they had never known. And once they knew what freedom felt like, it wasn’t long before the Soviet Union crumbled from within.

School choice can be America’s education Perestroika. It’s a fundamental restructuring of a decaying system that will provide new freedoms, educational opportunity and hope to families across the nation.

Florida is the first state to prove choice in education works. It has the strongest charter school liberties in the nation, scholarships for needy children and newly-elected Governor, Rick Scott, now wants to expand school choice to include full vouchers so that the money is attached to the student and parents can determine which school will educate their child. Florida is also providing greater options for students through virtual schooling utilizing new technologies.

Since education reforms were first implemented during Governor Jeb Bush’s tenure, the results have been nothing less than amazing. According to Matthew Ladner with the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice, “In 1998, 47 percent of Florida fourth-graders scored ‘below basic’ on the NAEP reading test, meaning they couldn’t read. By 2007, 70 percent of Florida’s fourth graders scored basic or above—a remarkable improvement.”

Other states are beginning to take note of Florida’s success. The crumbling of the failed system is underway.

Like the Communist leaders of the Soviet Union, teachers unions and the bureaucratic system are the greatest hindrance to meaningful reform. Their chokehold on education has prevented any significant changes that could dramatically improve the future of school children and the country at large.

Americans revel in unprecedented freedom in almost every aspect of our lives, but unfortunately there is one highly personal and critically important area where they have little freedom of choice: K-12 education. Instead, most parents are trapped by geography into sending their children to public schools that repeatedly graduate students unable to read, write, or perform fundamental math. Every time one of these subpar institutions graduates a student unable to read their own diploma, the American Dream is lost for yet another child and our nation’s prosperity is diminished.

Kelly Williams-Bolar’s daughters will likely be forced back into a sub-par school district, and their tragic situation made more tragic with their mother facing jail-time, probation, community service and a heavy fine to pay. Their dream for a better education may be shattered for now, but there is hope on the horizon. Once educational freedom and universal parental choice options become a reality in one of these states, the taste of freedom will spread, and like the domino effect of the Soviet collapse, America’s education system will be permanently changed.

David Spady

David Spady is President of Media and Public Affairs Strategy based in Camarillo, California.