OPINION

Opinion: School choice lifts all communities

Students of the Catholic University of Lyon use laptops to take notes in a classroom, on September 18, 2015 in Lyon, eastern France. AFP PHOTO / JEFF PACHOUD        (Photo credit should read JEFF PACHOUD/AFP/Getty Images)

Students of the Catholic University of Lyon use laptops to take notes in a classroom, on September 18, 2015 in Lyon, eastern France. AFP PHOTO / JEFF PACHOUD (Photo credit should read JEFF PACHOUD/AFP/Getty Images)  (Getty)

We often hear the phrase “education is the key to success.” It’s time to be more intentional and demand that a quality education is the key to success. As a father of two, I want my children to have bigger and better opportunities than I did. I think nearly every parent can agree on that. 

Yet today, one too many students find themselves at a disadvantage, wasting their prime learning years at low-performing schools because of their zip code or their last name. They deserve better. They deserve to have a choice.

Republicans are proud to stand up for school choice. School choice is simply about empowering parents to choose for their family the best education options for their children. 

These options can be in the form of traditional public schools, public charter schools, school vouchers, magnet schools, online learning, education savings accounts and home schooling. In other words, school choice puts the most important decisions back into the hands of parents who don’t have the options of moving to a better school district or paying private-school tuition out of pocket.

As we observe National School Choice Week, hundreds of thousands of parents and educators will rally in support of school choice at more than 16,000 events. America’s growing enthusiasm and appetite for this common sense reform is clear. 

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Education is a high priority for all Americans, particularly minorities; about one in five Latinos name education as the country’s most important issue right now. Additionally, more than 70 percent of Hispanics support school choice initiatives like charter schools, vouchers, tax credit scholarships and education savings accounts. According to a recent survey, 72 percent of black families favor charter schools and 79 percent of black families support vouchers or education scholarships – programs that enable them to send their children to charter, private or parochial schools.

Throughout this election cycle, one candidate in particular has turned her back on these results-driven school choice initiatives. That, of course, is Hillary Clinton. In November, Clinton told journalist Roland Martin, “I want parents to be able to exercise choice within the public school system — not outside of it.” 

As First Lady, Clinton had the resources and the choice to send her daughter to one of the best and most elite private schools in Washington, D.C. I do not criticize her for having that opportunity. But what about giving low-income families the same opportunity to choose a school that is right for their kids, just like she did? 

That’s exactly what school choice is all about.

In fact, Clinton once agreed on school choice, expressing support in her 1996 book, "It Takes a Village." She wrote, “Some critics of public schools urge greater competition among schools as a way of returning control from bureaucrats to parents and teachers. I find their argument persuasive, and I favor promoting choice among public schools.” 

Now that Hillary hopes to be the Democratic presidential nominee, she’s flip-flopped in order to snag key endorsements and keep campaign contributions coming from teachers' unions.

School choice shouldn’t be a Republican issue or a Democrat issue. It’s a civil rights issue that should unite us as Americans to do what’s right for tomorrow’s leaders. It shouldn’t matter whether the schools children attend are within or outside the public system. It only matters that they attend good schools.

Republicans spearhead school choice because we are fighting for fairness. In Arizona, the Republican-led House is introducing a bill that will allow every public school student to use state funds to attend a private school. In Nevada, Attorney General Adam Laxalt is fighting in court to keep the ACLU from killing the state’s new school choice law.

Three years ago, Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal fought an Obama administration lawsuit in federal court to keep charter schools open in some of the most poverty-stricken areas of New Orleans. In the Senate, Sen. Tim Scott has sponsored the CHOICE Act, which would expand educational options for students with disabilities, military families and low-income families.

Access to a quality education shouldn’t be a right reserved for the rich and well-connected. Let’s lift up all children by giving them the options that will help unleash their greatest potential and achieve their dreams.

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Reince Priebus is the chairman of the Republican National Committee.

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