Wesley  Coopersmith

Earlier this month, North Carolina unleashed its “Opportunity Scholarship” website accepting applications for the state’s new school voucher program. Three days after its opening, some 1,400 families had applied hoping they would be lucky enough to receive a school voucher. The popularity of this program highlights the growing uneasiness among many parents about what are too often failing public schools. The sheer volume of applicants also suggests how desperate families are for student-centered education reforms -- and those on the left should stop stalling and get on board the school choice train.

The cry for increasing school choice is not confined to North Carolina. Across the nation over 500,000 students are currently on charter waiting lists attempting to escape their failing public school and get into better institutions. Back in 2011, a now famous African American woman by the name of Kelley Williams-Bolar was jailed for attempting to get her daughters out of a failing public school in Akron, Ohio. In a desperate attempt to enroll her daughters into a better school, Kelley falsified her address and sent them to an alternative school outside the city. Although Kelly’s actions were dishonest, her motive to give her children the best education possible was one that many parents across the country can relate to.

North Carolina is part of a growing movement among 13 states plus the District of Columbia that offers school voucher programs. Most of these state voucher programs target low-income families typically found in failing public schools.

The positives of school choice are self-evident. Increasing school choice empowers parents with the freedom to choose which school they want their children to attend. After all, every parent contributes funding for their local public school through taxes. Is it wrong to suggest that they ought to have some measure of control over how that money is spent to educate their children? The primary responsibility of educating America’s children rests with parents -- not government bureaucrats or union officials. Whether it be through a public school, private school, charter school, virtual school, or homeschool, parents knows how to best educate their child. Why should a zip code determine, as it did in the case of Ms. Kelly, where children should attend school?

Wesley Coopersmith

Wesley Coopersmith is a Policy Analyst for Americans for Prosperity.