We can expand school choice and remain vigilant at the same time
There is no question that the national push for educational freedom is really turning into a school choice revolution. As states across the country enact school choice programs for the first time and expand existing options, families most in need of new opportunities can now access the learning environment that works best for them.
But despite the overwhelming positive impacts of school choice, there are families concerned that school choice programs open the door to potential government overreach and new mandates on private schools and homeschools.
Concern over possible regulations is understandable, and we should always be vigilant against government overreach, but we can remain so and still empower parents. In fact, parental empowerment helps keep schools more accountable to parents than to regulators. When numerous families and schools participate in a school choice program, that is more financial resources and more students for a school, putting them in a position of strength to fight government regulation.
Take Arizona and Florida, for example. Both states have expanded school choice over the past two decades, and government regulations on private schools have declined. In Arizona, new laws expanding homeschooling freedoms have been passed.
Additionally, many school choice bills have language in the legislation protecting private schools and home educators from state control and supervision. For example, Arizona’s current school choice law has a safeguard that expressly prohibits private schools from having to “alter [their] creed, practices, admissions policy or curriculum” in order to accept students who pay for tuition through the school choice program. Choice bills introduced in Texas, North Dakota, and Kansas all contain similar language protecting nonpublic participants.
Recent U.S. Supreme Court rulings on state school choice programs have also protected private schools, particularly when it comes to government discrimination. It is also likely the “Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment would protect religious schools and home educators from…regulations that discriminate against them because of their religious status or beliefs,” writes Michael Clark and shared by The Goldwater Institute.
School choice has greatly benefited thousands of students across the country — and participation is voluntary! We can be vigilant regarding government intrusion on private school and homeschool autonomy while also not denying families the opportunity to access the learning environment that best meets their needs.