The deep hypocrisy of personally capitalizing on opportunity while denying it for others
Growing up on the south side of Milwaukee in a family with limited financial means, my parents faced many of the same daunting decisions that parents still struggle with today. Do they gamble their child’s future on a public education system, in my case the Milwaukee Public School System, that has a long history of problems or explore alternative options? Both Bay View, Pulaski and Thomas More High School were equal distances from my home but figurative miles apart in scholastic achievement and an expectation of personal responsibility.
Fortunately for me, my parents chose the latter. While Milwaukee was an innovator of the voucher program, eligibility at the time I was in school was strictly limited. Instead, both my parents worked two jobs each to afford private tuition at a school they felt would provide for a greater personalized learning environment. I would deliver newspapers with my father before classes with the understanding that this was a collective investment in my future. Later, when my family moved outside the city, I attended and graduated from the local public school. My siblings also experienced a diverse mix of both public and private education.
This personalized experience in school choice provided a fundamental understanding of the importance in educational options. It helped set me on a life path much different than most of my neighborhood friends and one that very likely prevented me from becoming another negative statistic. A tale echoed countless times. This experience also established an inherent sense of personal responsibility to be an advocate so that all others, especially those that are less fortunate, have a similar opportunity.
Unfortunately, this simple concept runs contradictory to many school choice opponents and leads to one of the more pervasive hypocrisies of the entire debate. It is not uncommon that opponents, including several state legislators who actively vote against the program, either attended a private school or send their children to one. In short, school choice is good enough for them, but not good enough for you if you cannot afford it. Quality education should not be seen as a luxury, only afforded to those with financial means. It is the best investment a society can make in establishing a better future and is an indispensable right.
Which is why parental choice programs continue to grow and expand. As multiple choices and enhanced options become more prevalent in all aspects of our daily life, it is essential that education evolves as well. More and more, parents are recognizing that a one-size-fits-all approach is no longer the most efficient way to meet diverse learning abilities.
These programs are thriving for one simple reason: invested parents. The very essence of school choice is that the parent is best suited to determine what works for their child. No politician or advocacy group can expand the program on their own. These programs only grow if parents see the value in them. To decry school choice is simply to express arrogance that one knows what is better for a particular child than their own parent.
Obviously, this continued arrogance will not prevail, evidenced by the exponential growth in school choice across the country. My grade school and high school are now part of the parental choice program and more accessible without undue financial burden on a family. This is something we all should celebrate, not condemn as opponents who experienced similar opportunities and advantages routinely do. Like most, my parents never wanted to see a public school fail but more importantly they did not want their child to fail either. School choice was essential to my family and should be just as accessible to yours.