The Ottumwa Courier

October 27, 2012

Candidate sees value in educational choice


PLANO — Scanning my mail today, I noticed an advertisement from a local politician, a public school teacher, accusing his opponent of wanting to “gut public schools.” The candidate to whom he referred is an outspoken supporter of quality education who simply believes that educational choice would give parents the option to choose instructional programs which they believe to be best for their children. Out of curiosity, I placed a call to that candidate and found that he has strongly supported the public schools where his seven children have attended and yet sees great value in educational choice. Candidates who open this vital issue for discussion should not be dismissed because in most cases they too pay taxes which support education and often they too have invested much, not the least of which could be the education of their own children.

While government is involved in legislating compulsory education and financing schooling, government may not always be best suited for administering schools. Today, over 750,000 families in 21 states and Washington D.C., are enrolled in choice programs with Indiana, perhaps, leading the way. As a matter of social justice, Indiana has guaranteed that low- and moderate-income families have choices equal to their more affluent neighbors, respecting the values of parents and the welfare of children.

A recent study of 15-year-olds in 34 countries concluded that American students ranked 14th in reading, 17th in science and 25th in math, and the high school graduation rate of U.S. students ranked 26th among countries surveyed. This reality has ominous implications for our children and the future of our nation. Children and parents have waited long enough for a better chance to fulfill their true potential in life.

Indiana found that along with academic benefits of a voucher system, the program saved taxpayers nearly $5 million in the first year and is projected to save three or four times that amount in the next few years. A secondary benefit has been that the business climate in the state has become one of the most attractive in the nation because employers want employees to live in areas where their children have good educational options.

Preserving the status quo and demonizing progressive thinkers will not work well for the future of our nation or the integrity of our political process.

Patrick Amsden