See! A disenchanted nation
Spring like day from desolation;
To Truth its state is dedicate,
And Freedom leads it forth, her mate;
— Percy Bysshe Shelley, “Prometheus Unbound”
Shelley got it right; truth and freedom are inseparable. And, when it comes to schooling, the two join in the long-established freedom of parents to decide the specific medium of truth for their own child.
And yet, it is the national reality that we have imposed the unchosen medium – the specific “public” school – upon the lower-income family; such parents have no voice in the matter. Billy’s school will be assigned to him by a completely impersonal system, one that lacks any plausible, or even intelligible, justification beside the welfare and power of the union chiefs who profit from it.
Will the empowerment of non-rich parents ever become a reality? Will these mothers and fathers one day be offered the dignity of making that fateful decision for their own child – that power and freedom that the rest of us so cherish?
Given his very specific and humbled submission to the teachers union by our most plausible next president, the federal government seems an unlikely champion of the poor for the near future. Yet, today, in a number of states, we watch politicians adjusting to signs of an awakening civic conscience; of course, it helps that the polls show a mounting preference for choice among all parents, the comfortable as well as the poor. The subsidized mother and father have become a spreading vision among our people.
When and if choice comes to be in a sustainable way, it will most likely do so in a variety of legal and economic forms from state to state. Vouchers that would subsidize and empower lower-income parents to exercise their legal right by paying tuition are merely the most simple and obvious remedy.
And, of course, we have already created the harbinger of parental empowerment in our well-functioning and very popular charters. Aside from their superior test scores, we can be confident that they work simply by watching the frantic (and too often successful) effort of union chiefs to minimize their numbers and/or to shrink the operating liberty of these precious quasi-public latecomers in our history.
Tuition vouchers for ordinary and poor families will be the simplest form for the subsidizing of choice. Imagine the real freedom for families that need financial help to decide for themselves if both vouchers and charters were to become available to them.
That will depend entirely upon the prudence and resilience of their current union overseers to transform themselves and, for the first time, rise to meet the competition in a free market.
In short, they would have to become worth choosing. Is that too much to ask?