“Time and tide wait for no man.” This famous phrase comes from Chaucer’s medieval Canterbury Tales, but a more modern version could just as easily say, “A child’s education waits for no policy.”
Telling a student in a failing public school that they shouldn’t be able to transfer to a good private school down the road hurts their education now, which is the only time that matters.
Currently, the North Carolina State Legislature is considering a bill that would allow all children in North Carolina to choose their school. Some argue, somehow, that the bill would hurt students. On the contrary, it gives students the urgent options they need to learn today, so they don’t need to wait for the adults to get their acts together.
Let’s imagine, as is the case in a lot of our state schools, that your child belongs to a school that is failing. Furthermore, instead of a certified teacher, a substitute is running your child’s class for the rest of the school year. Lastly, the substitute is leading the children in core subjects like mathematics, history, or science.
Well, I don’t need to explain to you the problem with that scenario. I think we are seeing the results of such situations right now across our state and nation. For instance, in the city of Baltimore, it has been reported that the majority of the public high school students (77%) cannot read or do math on grade level. What a tragedy!
In North Carolina, employers complain about the lack of work ready graduates. Teachers across our state are leaving the profession in droves. When asked why, the No. 1 reason reported is the lack of discipline within the schools. The students apparently feel the same way, as we are hearing reports of students who don’t feel safe in their school. Stories of bullying and videos of student fights circulate around the internet.
If you are a parent caught in this trap, what option do you have for your children if school choice is not expanded? Not many.
Their hard earned money is taxed and funneled to schools that are not educating their children. Year after year, students who are caught in these binds fall further behind. Well, that is not right. Their education delayed is education denied.
When it is all said and done, that parent and child, not the school system, will face the consequences for the education that never took place. While the student and parent attempt to compensate for an education that was never received, the school system that failed that child will continue to receive state funding.
On this subject, my position is simple. If a student’s needs are not being met at school, then that child ought to be able to go to a school that can meet their needs no matter what. That child should not be restricted to public schools only. What happens if you are in a district where the majority of schools are failing?
Accessibility to educational choice should not only apply to academic needs. It should also apply to physical or mental needs. For instance, Wilson County hosts one of the largest private schools for autistic students. It is no secret that in many counties, the exceptional children program is not fully staffed, and they are struggling to find teachers. Thankfully, because of our current school choice options, many of these students are thriving in a school that specializes in the care they need.
Some seem to argue much of the problem with education quality comes down to teacher pay. I voted for a 10% teacher pay raise. However, I am under no impression that such a pay raise will cause teachers to flood the system. Nor do I believe that raising teacher pay to at least $50K (I also support this) for a brand new teacher will help our schools be fully staffed. In a county like Wilson, one of the problems we face is that we share boundaries with Wake County, and our teachers can find better-paying jobs there.
School choice is about students and their needs. The taxpayer’s money should follow the child and allow them to access the education they need. To say that such a measure is harmful to children is not a stretch of truth; it is a flat out lie.