This week, communities throughout the nation celebrated the enormous potential of school choice. Now, more than ever, students and families hunger for alternatives to the public school system. With a plethora of educational options available today, our government should champion and empower families to discover the best fit for their children, rather than confining them to an outdated system.
Defenders of the status quo invest significant resources, a lot of time, energy, and money, to resist efforts to give families more options. Teachers unions and the state education bureaucracy have joined forces with outspoken progressives who fear free thinking independent young people who grow up outside of their control.
As Republicans, we believe that the family is more important than the state. We believe that parents know best how to educate their children and have an inalienable right to impart their values to the next generation.
Our position on education, as outlined in Article III of the Idaho Republican Platform, underscores the belief that children are a gift from God, and stewarding and disciplining those children into being Godly and productive citizens is the paramount responsibility of fathers and mothers.
The Idaho State Constitution says in Article IX, Section 1, that “The stability of a republican form of government depending mainly upon the intelligence of the people, it shall be the duty of the legislature of Idaho, to establish and maintain a general, uniform and thorough system of public, free common schools.”
Notice that this doesn’t say the government must indoctrinate students, or force anti-American or anti-family curricula down our students’ throats. It merely says we must provide a public school system that serves all students.
Article III, Section 3 of the Platform reinforces this goal through the mechanism of school choice:
We believe in improving the quality of education for every child by maximizing parental choice. This will be accomplished through money following students to their parent’s school of choice. We support all educational environments desired by parents including public charter schools, public virtual charter schools, homeschools, schooling at home, microschools, learning pods, co-ops, private and parochial schools, and accountable public-school systems.
Right now, school choice requires extra money to pay tuition, extra time to homeschool, or a public school district that is willing to be flexible. The anti-school choice lobby is spending a lot of money and political capital to keep it that way. While there are many great teachers and administrators within the public school system, there are also many who believe they know better than parents, and that children belong to them, not to you.
I urge the Legislature to make school choice a priority this session. Not only will it give families more options, it will induce competition in the current system, which we as Republicans and believers in the free market know will lead to quality improvements for all.