Support grows for school choice, parent rights — even in progressive Oregon
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America is in the midst of a parent rights revolution that is rapidly leading to education reforms and a wave of support for school choice across the country.
During the pandemic, parents were left with few alternatives to distance/hybrid learning except those who could afford to send their children to open private schools. Many of the members of the elected elite who forced school closures on us — and who oppose school choice — are among those same people who send their children to private schools. They do not want to send their children to public schools but refuse to offer the same opportunities to other families, especially those in low-income and underserved communities.
These hypocrisies were exposed to parents in Oregon when their children were among the last in the country to return to class.
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We have seen the grassroots movement of parents in several states as they push for school choice. Governor Glenn Youngkin of Virginia has fought against school choice budget cuts. Arizona just passed a major bill on expanding school choice. Arkansas, Florida and Georgia have passed various forms of legislation over the past year. Iowa incumbents against school choice lost to pro-school choice candidates in the recent primary election. A court case in Maine has just provided additional priority to allow school choice funding for private religious schools.
These recent successes along with new public opinion research have led parents to believe that change is possible, even in the deep blue of Oregon.
To prove what we believed to be a widespread movement in Oregon, the Oregon Moms Union, Oregon’s leading nonpartisan organization of grassroots parents, commissioned a statewide poll on the issues of school choice. We found that Oregon voters are ready for school choice.
The poll showed that 55.3% of Oregonians think Oregon’s education system is headed in the wrong direction. Only 16.6% think it is on the right track. More than 72% of Oregonians support school choice where tax money allocated per student will follow the child to pay for education expenses related to a public education alternative. Even nearly 60% of Democrats support school choice!
Oregon has earned a reputation as one of the most progressive states in the country. We have the longest streak without a Republican governor (39 years) and have voted Democratic in every presidential election for the past four decades. The Oregon legislature is led by a supermajority Democratic delegation, which has led a leftist agenda, from taxes to abortion to decriminalization of hard drugs.
And yet, despite (and perhaps, well, because of) this long history of voting for anti-school-choice politicians, our polls indicate that even in blue Oregon – a new shift in the tide toward the parental choice support has arrived.
Maybe Oregonians are finally seeing that progressivism and school choice aren’t mutually exclusive. It’s not a Republican versus Democrat issue, it’s about empowering decisions made at the most localized level possible, in each family.
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Many parents in Oregon have already moved to schools of their choice, despite the lack of state financial support. Over the past two years, public schools in Oregon have lost nearly 30,000 students in a state with more than 500,000 students. Several districts have experienced a mass exodus of students due to discouragement from parental involvement, behavioral issues, divisive curriculums, and lack of services due to understaffing. These parents found alternatives, such as learning modules, private schools, home schools and other options.
A one-size-fits-all system does not work for parents or children. We need to fund individualized learning. Parents must be able to choose educational solutions adapted to the individual needs of each child. Children should be allowed to thrive rather than forced into cookie-cutter programs. We should encourage children to explore their own path to success and offer them whatever support, financial or otherwise, is needed.
Parents have been excluded from the education of their children for too long. Parents in Oregon and across the country are seeking changes in the education system. They want to be part of the decision-making process again. When parents can choose where their children go to school, it takes power away from government politicians, bureaucrats and teachers’ unions and gives it back to parents.
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School choice is the solution to our failing education system that has long been controlled by government teacher unions. It is a solution for parents who want to have a say in the education of their child. It is a solution for underserved communities and families to give them access to quality education, regardless of their financial situation or zip code. It is a solution for students with special needs who do not receive the support they deserve. It’s the solution for teachers who are tired of paying dues to government teachers’ unions that don’t represent their interests.
It’s time for Oregon to catch up with the rest of the nation and what its own people want. It’s time to choose the school.
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