by Raul Lopez
Next time you hear progressives talk about how they are the ones who are sticking up for minority communities, ask them to square their opposition to educational freedom – or the ability for families to customize their child’s education.
Progressives cheered this week as Nashville Chancellor Anne C. Martin ruled that the state’s education savings account program is “unconstitutional” because of an obscure section in our constitution where it talks about “home rule.”
The ruling was a blow to the many hundreds of families who are desperately looking for increased choice when it comes to deciding the best type of education for their child.
Every single family in Tennessee should have this choice, but because teacher unions and their special interest group advocates adamantly oppose any type of choice for parents, the ESA program that was signed into law was narrow in scope. But even this was a step too far for educational freedom opponents who consistently put their interests above everything else.
It’s why minority families have been demanding policymakers to take action and enact bold action to change a status quo that is leaving far too many students behind.
Here in Tennessee, the numbers are staggering. As the Tennessee Star recently reported, Tennessee students are struggling to keep pace on national exams despite adopting one-size-fits-all policies.
This is why education savings accounts represent something dramatically different from what we have been doing for nearly half a century: empower families to customize their child’s education using education dollars to pay for tutoring, school supplies and even private school tuition.
Not surprisingly, ESAs are incredibly popular with the American people. A recent Mason Dixon poll found that a whopping 78% of Tennesseans and 68 percent of Democrats in the state support ESA programs.
Behind these numbers are real families who are looking for additional options for their children to thrive and learn. They include folks like Tamara Henderson and her children Trey, 11 and Trinity, 5, who were among the families looking forward to using their ESA accounts beginning this fall. After the recent court ruling, Ms. Henderson told the media that she was worried about how she was going to make ends to meet to continue sending her children to the private school where they are currently enrolled. Ms. Henderson speaks highly of their children’s school saying that his son is able to “grow” and isn’t “held back.”
Every student in the state should feel like they are able to grow and find fulfillment in whatever education system works for them. As every family in Tennessee is learning because of COVID -19 school closures, education can happen anywhere. Families and students can structure their day to learn and explore reading books, but also taking advantage of the internet. And because every child is unique, parents are figuring out ways to ensure that they are developing an education plan for each child.
The point here is that we should reject a cookie-cutter approach to education and demand policy makers free up families’ ability to customize their children’s education. ESAs represent a great step forward to increased educational freedom.
Unfortunately, now with the judge’s ruling, the future of ESAs in the state is up in the air.
Next time you hear someone cheer this decision and rail against school choice, ask them: why do you feel families are incapable of choosing an education plan that works for their children?
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Raul Lopez is the executive director of Latinos for Tennessee PAC, a political action committee that supports candidates that promote faith, family, freedom and fiscal responsibility.