Nevertheless, nearly three-quarters of America’s children remain in government-assigned public schools, all too many of which fail to provide even a safe learning environment, let alone a good education. Scandalously, American teachers’ unions are doing everything in their power to restrict parental choice in education. And thanks to their deep pockets, they often have the political clout to succeed.
To understand the power of teachers’ unions to block even the most promising educational reforms, consider the ongoing struggle over school choice in our nation’s capital. Today, public schools in Washington, D.C., enjoy the dubious distinction of leading the nation in violence while ranking among the lowest in academic performance.
That’s why the DC Opportunity Scholarship Program, launched in 2004, was such a breakthrough. According to a federally mandated evaluation, the use of an opportunity scholarship resulted in the equivalent of 3.7 months in additional learning for students. Moreover, these $8,500 scholarships, which enable students to attend a private school, are half the cost of the $18,000 per-pupil price tag for a year in a D.C. public school.
Yet the program has been at the heart of a pitched battle for survival over the last few years, with the teachers’ unions gunning for it at every turn.
Today, American education stands at a crossroads. One path leads to increased government centralization, fewer parental choices, and a greater role for special interests. The other path leads to increased parental authority and a return to the constitutional principle that education policy is primarily a state and local affair and shouldn’t be set in Washington.
Which path we ultimately go down will depend on the fate of school choice.