When Did Parents and Students Lose Freedom of Choice?

United Teachers Los Angeles demands that schools remain closed unless police are defunded, charter schools eliminated, government health care imposed and a statewide wealth tax implemented. Faced with such heavy-handed political demands, many parents have been taking a hard look at independent non-government schools. This prompts a meditation on educational choice, based on the example of college athlete-students.

No law forbids students from marketing their name and image, but when athlete-students get to college they are suddenly forbidden to market themselves. The NCAA takes over that function, sharing the considerable monetary rewards with television networks and the various universities. The athlete students, shorn of the ability to market themselves, are paid in kind, through tuition. Their freedom to market themselves has been taken away. 

No law specifically bars parents from selecting a school, but when their child is ready, the parents find themselves restricted to the school the government wants their children to attend. If parents choose an independent school, their tax dollars still fund the government K-12 system, generally speaking a collective farm of mediocrity and failure. The process is bound to differ in various states, but somewhere along the line, freedom of choice was taken away. This should signal a new approach. 

Advocates of educational choice are not making a demand for something new or creating some new right. Rather, the political and educational systems have severely restricted the basic right to choose the parents and students already had. The onus to change is on the system, and this is not a difficult matter.

As in higher education, public educational dollars should fund the student, not the system. Parents and students, not politicians and bureaucrats, should decide where students attend school. Politicians should strive to restore the basic right to choice a failed system has taken away.

K. Lloyd Billingsley is a Policy Fellow at the Independent Institute and a columnist at American Greatness.
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