BY: Joy Pullman | Heartland Institute

A number of state leaders have signaled their intent in the year ahead to expand existing school choice programs or inaugurate new ones; the field looks promising particularly in Illinois, Indiana, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, and Wisconsin. The past three years have been perhaps the best for school choice in the United States since parents really did control community schools.

The great danger of this success is that it will be coopted and ruined by people who understand the need for individual freedom in education because the alternative produces so little genuine education, but don’t understand why freedom works.

Take, for an example, congressional Republicans, who are eager to “expand school choice” by demanding states expand charter schools to receive federal funds, or granting federal funds directly to favored charter groups and styles. This is not choice. It is government picking a new set of winners and losers. Choice means consumers – families – decide, not regulators and politicians whose resumes and campaign coffers are always hungry for the feast only big companies and special interests can lay out.

To provide genuine, individual-level freedom to families, lawmakers need to relinquish state power back to the people. Schools should be free to pick their own tests and curriculum, and families should be free to choose among them. Markets need good information, and private organizations such as and state-based nonprofit organizations are already moving to provide this independently of government. Research shows families trust private organizations more than they do governments for accurate information.

It’s a very simple concept, but very hard for a politician to hear when he could boost his own ego and look like the savior of schools while replacing the previous stranglehold on them with his own. So politicians need to hear from constituents that we won’t settle for rearranged deck chairs. Our kids will be through school by the time we all discover the current “reform” idea has failed. We want freedom in education, and we want it now. No diversions, deceptions, or excuses.

And thus the battle lines for the next legislative session are drawn, not by political party, but according to those who promote self-government and those who promote big government.

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