March 2, 2022

By Joe Setyon

It’s a simple concept: Empower parents to use the tax dollars allocated toward their children’s schooling for the education style that truly best serves their kids’ needs.

It’s a popular concept, too, with a new RealClear Opinion Research poll showing that 72 percent of registered voters support school choice, up 8 points from 2020. That figure underscores the importance of the Goldwater Institute’s advocacy for school choice, demonstrating that Americans believe parents, not systems, are best equipped to make decisions customized around their children’s unique qualities and needs.

Why the jump in support for school choice over the past two years? One major factor at play is the coronavirus pandemic. As former public school teacher Kali Fontanilla told The Morning Answer radio show last week out, with entire families stuck at home for much of the pandemic, parents “got a glimpse” of what their children were being taught over Zoom. Many didn’t like what they saw, said Fontanilla, who has gone to work exposing the infiltration of Critical Race Theory (CRT) in California public schools. As EdChoice Director of Policy Jason Bedrick likewise noted at a Goldwater virtual event in October, parents were able to see for themselves the quality of education their children were receiving—and in many cases, they weren’t pleased with how teachers were integrating politics into their lessons.

And as the stories of parents like Rhode Island mom Nicole Solas and many others show, not only are taxpayer-funded schools teaching these radical lies, but they’re also going to extreme lengths to keep parents in the dark.

Ultimately, public education officials’ efforts to take parents out of the equation show why protecting parents’ rights is more important now than ever before. As Goldwater Senior Fellow Jonathan Butcher wrote during National School Choice Week in January:

“Parents who reject Critical Race Theory (CRT) should not have to stand idly by while assigned schools spread discrimination. Public and private school choice opportunities are nothing short of essential today so that families can choose how and where their children learn based on their beliefs and values. Families should not have to leave their most deeply held values on the sidewalk in front of the schoolhouse door.”

For years, Goldwater has been at the forefront of giving parents more education choices, especially by pioneering education savings accounts (ESAs). ESAs put money that would otherwise go toward a given student’s public education into an account that parents can use to customize their child’s education experience. The money can be used for a wide variety of education options like private schools, tutoring, textbooks, and homeschool curricula, and it can even be rolled over from one year into the next.

In Arizona, the Goldwater Institute advocated for the nation’s first ESA policy, which became a reality in 2011. Since then, the state’s ESA program (officially known as Empowerment Scholarship Accounts) has gone from serving 100 students in its first year over 10,000 today. Moreover, a Goldwater-supported bill currently being considered by the Arizona legislature, the Arizona Equal Opportunity Education Act, would expand Empowerment Scholarship Accounts and provide more school choice options for hundreds of thousands of students.

We aren’t just working in Arizona. Goldwater is proud to have expanded school choice in 19 states in 2021, and we won’t stop until parents in every state in the nation are empowered to decide what educational path truly meets their children’s needs.

It’s clear that the American public overwhelmingly supports giving families more educational choices. Lawmakers should take heed.

Joe Setyon is a Digital Communications Associate at the Goldwater Institute.

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