Academic journal article Education Next

Putting Parents First: A Cause Worth Fighting for. (Education Matters to Me)

Academic journal article Education Next

Putting Parents First: A Cause Worth Fighting for. (Education Matters to Me)

Article excerpt

Growing up in a middle-class family in Erie, Pennsylvania, my brother, sister, and I didn't have much in the way of luxuries. But we never lacked for love and support. Our parents did everything they could to make sure we would have more opportunities than they had. The key was a quality education. My dad worked two jobs all his life in order to send us to the best schools possible. He never complained. And I was never able to thank him enough.

The best way I know to thank all parents who care about their children's education is to empower them to make the right choices. Recently Pennsylvania gave parents some powerful new tools. Elementary-school children who are struggling in reading and math can now qualify for $500 grants for after-school instruction. They can use these grants to purchase extra help at the education provider of their choice, public, private, or parochial. There's no other program like it in the nation-but I predict there will soon be many others.

Another law I signed this year provides a tax credit to groups that donate public- and private-school scholarships for families. We expect this will leverage up to $40 million in school-choice scholarships by the second year.

You see, I believe that parental empowerment is incomplete without school choice. Families struggling to make ends meet should have the right to take their precious education dollars to whichever schools best fit their children's needs. Wealthy families already have the ability to choose the best schools for their children. It's time to level the playing field.

The traditional arguments in favor of school choice--that it will allow children to escape failing schools; that it will improve public education through competition--are well known. But consider one more: it will get parents more involved in their children's education.

Parents have the ultimate responsibility for their children's education. They're the ones who check the homework, who attend the PTA meetings, who drive their sons and daughters to music lessons and basketball practice. …

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