Opinion: Why school choice is a civil rights issue – CNN

I fail to understand why those who say they champion the poor oppose school choice. There’s no other means as powerful as education to lift kids and families out of poverty. Parents don’t have the time to wait; schools are failing their kids and they have to take action now.

Excellent article by Reince Priebus:  Source: Opinion: Why school choice is a civil rights issue – CNN

Fighting for school choice is one of the ways to take action. For most students today, their neighborhood or zip code determines their school. That means some kids, by no fault of their own, are forced into a failing school. They don’t have a choice.That’s not equal opportunity, and it’s not fair. No parent wants to see his or her child languish in a bad school. Parents want what’s best for their children, and that’s why Republicans believe they should have the ability to choose the right school for their children.

That’s why the Republican Party is the party of school choice.School choice takes many forms. In some places, it means opening charter schools, which have greater flexibility to adapt to the unique needs of their students. In other places, it means allowing students in one public school to attend a different public school. It means having alternatives like magnet schools and virtual schools and protecting parents’ right to home school. And it can also mean giving students in underperforming schools scholarships to attend a private school.

For example, under the leadership of Gov. Bobby Jindal, Louisiana established the Louisiana Scholarship Program, which gives funds to low-income students to escape underperforming schools and attend a better private school. More than 90% of students using the program are minority students.In the District of Columbia, a similar program supported by Republicans in Congress is also getting results. It’s also extremely popular among D.C. families. A Department of Education study found that students enrolled in the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program had a 91% graduation rate. That’s more than 20 percentage points above the graduation rate for those who didn’t receive a scholarship.

When a D.C. student named Tiffany, who’s now in college, was asked what an Opportunity Scholarship meant for her, she recounted that after applying, “I started praying every day because I didn’t want to go to a neighborhood school.” School choice meets an urgent need — and can be an answer to kids’ prayers.

Despite its merits, though, there are those who oppose school choice. Some haven’t taken the time to see the profound difference it can make. But too many of them, especially those school choice opponents in elected office, are more concerned about what the special interests want. Groups such as teachers’ unions will go to great lengths to fight school choice. That’s because they’re looking out for adults, not for our kids.

It’s hard to understand why so many in the other party, including the Obama administration, oppose proven school choice programs like those in Louisiana or in the District of Columbia, whether their opposition takes the form of lawsuits, legislation, or misinformation. Opposition is nothing new. The Milwaukee Parental Choice Program, the first of its kind, has endured legal challenges from those who wanted to maintain the unacceptable status quo. As a lawyer in Wisconsin, I was part of the legal team that defended the program. School choice won in court, but my experience reminds me that we won’t be able to fix our schools without a fight.

That fight happens in cities, state capitals, and Washington. This month, the U.S. House of Representatives, led by Republicans, passed legislation to expand charter school options. Sen. Tim Scott recently introduced the CHOICE Act, and other Republican senators, including Rand Paul, Marco Rubio, Pat Toomey and Lamar Alexander, have offered proposals in the Senate to expand school choice. Hopefully, Democrats in the Senate and the White House will come on board.

School choice doesn’t solve every problem, but it has proven tremendously effective in raising graduation rates and achievement levels for low-income and minority students. It has offered alternatives for students, including those with disabilities, whose needs weren’t met in their local schools. And by empowering parents over bureaucrats, school choice challenges all schools to do better — helping all of our kids. We uphold the legacy of Brown best when we continue the work of tearing down barriers to educational opportunity. As former President George W. Bush said recently, “Education in America is no longer legally separate, but it is still not effectively equal.”

Until equal opportunity in education is a reality for all kids — of all races, of all backgrounds, of all abilities — our work isn’t done.