As Congress moves to reauthorize the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), it is incumbent upon us to recognize and address the fatal flaws in our educational system.
When the Pilgrims left Holland to sail for the shores of the New World, it was no longer under the impetus of seeking religious freedom. Rather, while they had fled to Holland to escape religious persecution in England, they realized shortly thereafter the negative influence Holland's corrupt youth were bringing to bear upon their children. They recognized that as parents they were endowed with the solemn responsibility of laying the foundation that would determine the destinies of their children. And it was this understanding that compelled them to sacrifice every human comfort to ensure that the hearts and minds of their children were inculcated with "the just fear of God and love for fellow man."
Today, American parents face a similar dilemma, knowing that the spiritual, social, and academic principles instilled into the minds of our children will set the paradigm for America's future. Will we trust a government-run bureaucracy or the parents to determine those principles? I believe we must empower parents to choose the schools or educational opportunities they deem best for their children.
I was in the middle of this debate as it first sparked when I authored the Arizona Scholarship Tax Credit legislation in 1997. This incredibly successful dollar-for-dollar tax credit program has helped provide over 142,000 scholarships for children in its 9 year history. Last year alone, Arizona experienced an 11 percent increase in the number of donations to School Tuition Organizations. And since the inception of the Scholarship Tax Credit program, Arizona has become the leading state proponent for parental empowerment in education. Its program--both individual and corporate scholarship tax credits, more charter schools per capita than any other state, and open public school enrollment--have achieved inarguable success.
The Department of Education reports that about four million children are currently attending chronically failing schools, or, schools that have failed to achieve minimal state standards for six consecutive years. To address this educational crisis, the 2002 No Child Left Behind Act stipulates that children attending a failing school can transfer to a higher-achieving school within the same district.
Trent Franks is a Republican Congressman for the 2nd District of Arizona and has spent most of his life working on children’s issues and trying to build a better future for all children.