GOOD: The Critical Importance of Protecting Parents and School Choice
Virginia’s public school system has been at the forefront of a great awakening among parents across America. Beginning with the government school shutdowns largely at the behest of teachers’ unions during the 2020-21 height of the coronavirus, parents got a peek behind the curtains of public school classrooms — and they didn’t like what they saw.
The shutdowns, long delayed re-openings, and unnecessary mask mandates devastated many children of working families who rely on public education. While other countries wisely kept their kids in school, extended remote learning in American schools harmed our students and diminished the quality of education they received. Virginia saw some of the worst declines in reading and math, and the learning loss hit disadvantaged and at-risk students the most.
It is not just happening in Virginia, as the numbers show that American students across the country are predictably falling behind. The statistics confirm a historic decline in 9-year-olds’ reading and math scores, but the damage from the government’s COVID response exposed a larger problem. While the U.S. spends 35% more on average per-pupil compared to peer nations, our students rank 31st by age 15 in math competency and are receiving below average scores in reading and science.
It is not just learning loss that should concern us. Loudoun County Public Schools infamously made national headlines for the power struggle a year ago between their radical school board and understandably indignant parents. Instead of having their valid concerns acknowledged, parents were ridiculed, dragged out of school board meetings, and called “terrorists” for speaking out. My legislation introduced last Congress, titled the Championing Our Parents Act, would protect these parents from FBI investigation.
Schools in Virginia have coordinated attempts to cover up egregious sexual assaults. School personnel are giving more attention to woke ideology and pronoun usage than to the legitimate concerns of girls who don’t want to share the locker room with biological males. Explicit and obscene “materials” have made their way into classrooms and school libraries without parental knowledge or consent. Parents are understandably frustrated by the increased exposure of radical ideologies to children in K-12 schools.
Recently, a scandal in Northern Virginia exposed that at least 16 top-achieving high school students were not informed of their National Merit Scholarship status because of the prioritization of racial equity and inclusion. Rather than recognizing and rewarding students based on their hard work and merit, irrespective of the color of their skin, woke school systems continue proving they care more about pushing their own agenda than empowering young Virginians. The message from the Left is clear: if you don’t fit into their narrative, you are not important.
Regardless of whether teacher unions or the education bureaucracy want to admit it, American parents no longer blindly trust the public school system. Radical agendas, woke indoctrination, critical race theory, and racist discrimination for scholarship awards are just some of the reasons why parents want more of a choice in where their kids go to school. It’s no wonder that more parents are turning to private education, charter schools, and homeschooling.
If the last few years have shown anything, it’s that parents across the country are willing to do whatever it takes to provide the best possible education for their children. Americans are standing up for their inherent, God-given right and responsibility to have a say in their child’s education and rejecting the idea that they must co-parent with the government.
To empower parents with more of a choice, I introduced the Children Have Opportunities In Classrooms Everywhere (CHOICE) Act in Congress. The CHOICE Act will enable parents and students to take control of their own academic future by expanding 529 savings accounts to give low-income families the ability to afford school choice. Under my plan, tax dollars will follow students to the public, private, or homeschool of their choosing, instead of being directed straight to a mandated government school.
Students are not one-size-fits-all, and the opportunity to choose the best education should be available to all. The next generation deserves far better than an education system that values unions over teachers, government over parents, woke ideology over children. We can and must do better.
Bob Good is a U.S. Representative for the 5th District of Virginia. He serves on the House Budget Committee and Education and Workforce Committee and is a member of the House Freedom Caucus.