Bob Rinearson: Who is afraid of school choice — and why?

Bob Rinearson

Apparently, a bunch of fanatical, socialist warriors who disrupted and verbally attacked Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos while she attempted to give a speech at Harvard University are afraid. You’ve heard of Harvard I’m sure. It has in recent times become the bastion of progressive intellectual development. Anything conservative need not apply. The thugs in the crowd even went so far as to hold up signs and shout out accusations that DeVos was a “white supremacist”.

Interesting when considering that DeVos’s push for school choice for students most affected by economical, racial and geographical restrictions makes such charges by the Harvard student body ridiculous. But then if truth be known, maybe the Harvard students were being vocal out of fear that one day they may have to sit in class alongside those who academically succeed due to school choice.

As data has shown, there are charter programs across America that are doing quite well, and the recipients who are reaping the spoils are often disadvantaged and minority youth who would otherwise fade away in schools that have surrendered to the federal mandates and bureaucracy that have strangled so many school districts.

In 2013, according to the National Charter School Study by the Center for Research on Educational Outcomes at Stanford University, “Overall, charter school students are surpassing those in traditional public schools in reading gains and keeping pace in math.”

In 2017, reporting on results from the 2015-16 school year, the Florida Department of Education published a report that is bound to send the opposition to charter schools and school choice into delirium. The report claimed “While reading test pass rate for high school students at charter schools was six percentage points high overall than at public schools, for example, the difference for low-income high schoolers was 10 percentage points higher and for Hispanic teenagers it was 12. The difference for African-American high schoolers was smaller-about 4 percentage points.”

Whether a student and their family seeks the charter school avenue or choose a private school, the point is seeking for the student what has previously eluded them.

Critics point out that monies now set aside for school vouchers, robs the public schools. Of course the public school system, especially those who regularly receive dismal evaluations from government and private oversight entities can become extremely defensive, or protective when it comes to having an image suggesting that they, the system, are failing their students. In fairness, the defenders of the public school order are correct when stating they do not have a choice in who attends their schools. They must accept all students, no matter if the student is dealing with issues of special needs, criminal backgrounds, who comes from dysfunctional families, or those students who would rather be anywhere than in a classroom. But what is not revealed is that oftentimes students and parents of students who want to achieve feel pushed to the side in order to accommodate students who often create chaos in the school. The student who has needs and wants to learn, may feel victimized. It’s not always about how a subject is presented.

School choice may mean freedom to those who feel that they previously had no choice to improve their lot in life. And quite frankly, many successful students and their families choose the public school system, and that’s their choice.

I’m sure the debate will rage on. In the meantime, school choice proponents such as our Secretary of Education deserve to be heard.

Bob Rinearson is a resident of Fort Wayne