Now that we’re in college, most of us probably don’t care about the quality of America’s K-12 schools. While some of us have younger siblings still affected by them, now that we are not experiencing K-12 schooling on a daily basis, it doesn’t come close to meeting the same significance it had in the past. Nonetheless, up ahead in the foggy, uncertain distance of our futures lies one big reason college students have to care: our future children.
Someday a large majority of our currently youthful, callow classmates will bear a new generation of students. A number of us won’t have any kids at all, but this is still an issue that will have ramifications on America’s status as the world’s greatest nation for generations to come.
Some of us will start to care about schools when our kids enter kindergarten. Others will start when their kids are born. There exists another group, though, who care enough about America’s schools to push for reforms right now and with good reason.
Because of the manner in which American schools are run and funded, through local, state and federal governments, school reforms have to go through a political process often mired by filibusters and stonewalling. Unfortunately, this means that crucial reforms can take far too long to become law and produce real effects. If our generation wants the best schools for our future children, then we have to start calling for change as soon as possible.
Before you start drafting petitions and letters to your legislators, it is essential to know what reforms to insist on.
The easy answer is to demand that more tax dollars be pushed into public schools. However, in many cases — including this situation — the easy answer is not always the right answer. Total combined federal, state and local expenditures on public schools have more than doubled since 1970, ballooning from about $272 billion (in inflation-adjusted dollars) to $592 billion in 2009. In spite of that, scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress have never significantly changed since the first assessment in 1969. That means spending more money on schools has been like spending money on expensive gifts for your grandma — she deserves it, but she’s going to love you exactly the same as before regardless.
Instead, it’s time to call for more school choice. Every child is different from one another, and each one deserves the freedom to attend a range of schools that cater to individual educational needs. Whether it’s establishing charter schools and magnet schools, opportunity scholarships, offering tax credits to offset education expenses or helping families that home-school, all kinds of school choice should be celebrated.
It’s about making all American schools more effective and motivating through common-sense solutions that emphasize flexibility, innovation and accountability. We must end the era where a postal code decides what school you’re assigned to and begin a new era that empowers parents to choose what is best for the student.
School choice has slowly been on the rise as of late, aided in part by the September 2010 release of “Waiting for Superman,” a documentary chronicling the lives of several families trying to get their children out of failing schools and into successful ones, made possible by school choice.
Several media outlets have even dubbed 2011 the Year of School Choice, and rightly so. Starting with the first annual National School Choice Week in January, school choice legislation has been passed in at least 12 states this year, and another 30 states have had legislation introduced. School choice is even growing in the social media sector, where innovative outlets like Choice Media TV have opened up.
Without the support of future parents, though, the people in charge will only make meek changes to appease current parents of students. As school officials at the local and state level realize the power of a young movement that isn’t going away in the next 20 years, imperative advancements can happen when we start to appeal for large-scale transformation.
Russell is a member of
the class of 2013.