OPINION: Indy Columnist Says All Parents Deserve School Choice

From Robert L. Hoy in the Indianapolis Star:

I read with much interest an opinion piece in the Indianapolis Star March 23 titled “Vouchers a distraction from raising bar for all schools.” Author Jennifer Wagner, a strategic communications consultant, a product of private schools, the daughter of retired public school teachers who, she writes, “spent a lot of money to send me to private school for 12 years,” wants to see vouchers “permanently pulled off the table” in the “healthy debate on education reform taking place at the statehouse.”

I enjoyed reading her article.

She argues that private schools are not “a silver bullet,” and that “holding them up as the solution to all our education woes creates a problematic paradigm.” I agree.

The school choice movement isn’t about sending students to private schools; it’s about giving parents – all parents, no matter their income or address – the choice as to where their children attend school. Any school, be it public, charter, private, or parochial.

She contends that by including vouchers in the reform movement, the message stated is “that we’re either too lazy to spend time working with teachers to improve public schools or we’ve bought into the ‘private is always better’ argument so often advanced by Republicans with respect to government.” I disagree.

Let me reiterate: the school choice movement isn’t about “being too lazy to spend time working with teachers to improve public schools” or believing that “private is always better.” It’s about giving parents – all parents, no matter their income or address – the choice as to where their children attend school. Any school, be it public, charter, private, or parochial.

I remind the author that her parents, two public school teachers, worked extremely hard to send her to private schools. That was their choice. Does that mean that they didn’t believe the public schools would provide her with a quality education? No. What it means, I believe, is that they decided the private school environment better suited the needs of their “nerdy, middle-class kid who loves to write” and would provide the environment for her to succeed.