School Choice: A Civil Rights Issue

By Dwayne Bohac. Published by Texas Citizens Coalition

School choice is the civil rights issue of our day, especially in Texas.  A family's access to a high quality education should be a basic civil right.  For me, this is about economic justice — helping the working poor and giving education consumers real choices.  Education is, indeed, the great equalizer.  In the marketplace, the customer is always right.  The education marketplace should be no different.

If we want to improve student performance and drive innovation in education, we must look at parents and students as customers who are empowered to choose the best school for their family.  We get to choose what cell phone we buy; we get to choose our grocery store; and we get to choose our dry cleaner.  Choosing a child's education is substantially more important.  It is, perhaps, the most important investment that a parents will make for their child.  The government should not make that decision.  Central command and control does not work efficiently in any marketplace.

No child should be forced to attend a school that does not offer the best possible education for that child.  Our children deserve better than to continue the faux school choice we currently have in the ZIP code centric school model.  Our discrimination has become much more subtle; it is no longer race or gender — it is your ZIP code.  

In today’s PreK-12 education marketplace, there are five education models:  traditional public schools, public charter schools, private schools, home schools and virtual schools.  Let me be clear:  I am an "all of the above" guy.  I am for whatever model that a parent and student decide will provide them the very best education. 

This issue has evolved beyond simply race or partisanship.  Organizations like the Libre Initiative and the Black Alliance for Educational Options have championed school choice as a critical need for the Latino and African-American communities, respectively.  These groups recognize the urgency of the situation. We can no longer wait on turn around strategies for our poor performing schools.  All families, and especially working-class families, deserve quality education options in order to increase their likelihood of achieving the American dream. 

Just like in every single other product or service, consumers need real choice – PreK-12 education is no different.  One size no longer fits all.  The status quo cannot prevail.  It doesn't have to cost a great deal of money, but it does require that families have real choice, and that is why school choice legislation should be the top priority in the next legislative session.

Bohac, a Republican, represents Houston in the state House of Representatives, where he is a member of the Committee on Public Education and the Committee on Ways and Means.

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